Supreme Court strikes down key part of Voting Rights Act

News sources, including USA Today, are reporting on a profound decision the other day handed down by the Supreme Court.

The high court freed states and municipalities with a history of racial discrimination from having to clear voting changes with the federal government.

… Declaring that “our country has changed in the past 50 years,” Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four other conservatives said the 1965 law cannot be enforced unless Congress updates it to account for a half-century of civil rights advances.

The court’s 5-4 ruling in the case from Alabama frees states and municipalities with a history of racial discrimination from having to clear changes in voting procedures with the federal government. That restriction has applied to nine states and parts of six others, mostly in the South.

“Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices,” Roberts said. “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” he wrote.

This is enormous news for Georgia. Racial issues have been highly divisive when determining voting districts during reapportionment and changing things such as the number of board members, etc. As far as we can tell, this only effects pre-clearance of the district lines. This may not change some of the already bizarre, squiggly district borders such as the ones drawn up by Walker and Thurmond years ago. But by and large, the decision is not clear to us. Anyone care to weigh in?

Read more here >> USA TODAY

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10 Responses to Supreme Court strikes down key part of Voting Rights Act

  1. concerned citizen says:

    I believe Thurmond should respond.

  2. TracyW says:

    The Supreme Court says that this oversight is no longer needed. I think they are right.

  3. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Anything to get me out of Hank Johnson’s district!!!

  4. EAV Mom says:

    Yes, because racism has been completely removed from life and politics here in the South and this oversight is no longer necessary.

    /please don’t miss the sarcasm

  5. whyaminotsurprised says:

    Bettyandveronica1 – I want Hank Johnson back. Sounds like you’d prefer to be with Tom Price (where I am now). I wish we could trade 😉

  6. D-Town says:

    This ruling comes a nearly a year too late. GA just changed district lines based on Census data. It will be 8 years before this ruling helps Georgia.


    Ohio House, Senate approve vouchers for low-income students

    Passage occurs on anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s constitutional ruling on Cleveland vouchers

    COLUMBUS, OH (June 27, 2013)–Ohio’s low-income kindergartners will be eligible for school vouchers this fall, following Gov. John Kasich’s signing of the state’s 2013-14 budget, a move he is expected to make possibly as soon as tomorrow. Today the Ohio House and Senate approved the budget containing the voucher expansion, which, over time, makes all low-income students eligible.

    Once limited just to low-income children in Cleveland, private school choice now will be available statewide to kindergartners whose family income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or $46,100 for a family of four. The program will add one grade level of eligibility each year over the next 12 years.

    Notably, lawmakers passed the eligibility increase on the 11-year anniversary of the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris ruling, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Cleveland’s school vouchers under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

    “This expansion no doubt will be a lifeline to many Ohio families,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “As more Ohioans get to realize the benefits of school choice, we hope that will encourage even greater growth toward making all families eligible.”

    Vouchers will be worth up to $4,250, which participating private schools will have to accept as payment in full. Because the number of vouchers is capped at 2,000 per grade per year, a lottery will be held if there are more applicants than vouchers available. Vouchers will be awarded first to previous scholarship recipients, then to students at or below 100 percent of the poverty rate, followed by those at 200 percent of the poverty line.

    “This new program will allow parents who do not have the means to move to a better school district or to send their children to a private school the opportunity to give their children an education that best fits their learning needs,” Matt Cox, president of School Choice Ohio, said. “School Choice Ohio joins families across the state in thanking Gov. Kasich and legislative leadership for their commitment to making an income-based school voucher program a reality.”

    Once eligible students receive a voucher their family income can rise above the 200 percent threshold; however, vouchers will drop to $3,187 when family income is between 200 percent to 300 percent of poverty, and $2,125 when their income falls within 300 percent to 400 percent. A student will lose eligibility if his or her parents’ income exceeds 400 percent of poverty.

    “For school choice to work, parents need ample buying power and schools need the freedom to operate,” Enlow said. “As this program grows, we’ll continue to work with Ohio leaders on what reasonable, parent-driven accountability measures look like.”

    For a detailed look at Ohio’s current voucher programs for students with autism and special needs, children in underperforming public schools, and underserved students in Cleveland, visit For an update on when Gov. Kasich signs the state budget, follow the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice at or

  8. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    Haven’t looked but I’m curious to know if the state is subsidizing tuition at independent schools for families who choose this option? $4250 won’t get you very far at an independent school, and that’s an awful lot of $$ for those schools to swallow on their own.

  9. Concernedmom30329 says:

    It won’t be elite schools. It may be some Catholic schools, because they are more plentiful and often cheaper in the Midwest than the South, and then there will be some start ups that may very well be absolutely dreadful or they may be successful.

    The elite schools, that already give scholarships, will use this to offset some of their financial aid, and presumably may be able to give a few more scholarships, but really I wonder if this will make an iota of difference for most kids. It will be interesting to follow.

    The article is clear if a school accepts the voucher they must accept it as full payment.

    In the Metro Atlanta area, there are virtually no schools that come close to costing only 4,000 dollars.

    I have a friend who has a high school student who receives the SB 10 Voucher. (GA Special Needs scholarship). The amount of this voucher reflects what the state would be spending on her child if he was in public school. For the 2013-2014 school year, the amount is about 3.000 dollars. While he had an IEP, he didn’t get many services. Thus, that is probably the amount that is spent, by the state of GA, on all typical high school students.

  10. Huffington Post has a good article on the subject:
    Supreme Court Voting Rights: Justices Strike Down Section 4

    The Supreme Court ruled on Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder Tuesday, striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

    The court made the ruling by a vote of 5-4.

    The court also upheld Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but it is unclear whether that section is inoperable without Section 4. The court left it to Congress to come up with a Section 4 replacement.

    Click here to read the opinion on the case.

    Click here for more on the decision from HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly.

    The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

    The court’s opinion said it did not strike down the act of Congress “lightly,” and said it “took care to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act” in a separate case back in 2009. “Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [Section 4] unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

    The Voting Rights Act has recently been used to block a voter ID law in Texas and delay the implementation of another in South Carolina. Both states are no longer subject to the preclearance requirement because of the court’s ruling on Tuesday.

    “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote.

    “There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act,” he wrote. “The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.”

    In his bench statement, Roberts said that Congress had extended a 40-year-old coverage formula based on “obsolete statistics and that the coverage formula “violates the constitution.”

    Congress, the court ruled, “may draft another formula based on current conditions.” But given the fact that Republicans currently control the House of Representatives, many voting rights advocates consider it unlikely that Congress will act to create a new formula.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a wide-ranging dissent on behalf of herself and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, justifying the continued vitality of the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision.

    “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” Ginsburg wrote. “The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ance is no longer needed.” . . .

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