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Supreme Court upholds core provision of the Voting Rights Act

June 22, 2009
Then SNCC leader, now Congressman John Lewis led the first Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights on March 7, 1965, when 600 marchers were attacked by police in riot gear, who fractured Lewis’ skull on a day remembered as Bloody Sunday. Before going to the hospital, Lewis appeared before television cameras demanding intervention by President Johnson, who, eight days later, appeared before a joint session of Congress to demand passage of the Voting Rights Act. It was passed Aug. 3, 1965.
Then SNCC leader, now Congressman John Lewis led the first Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights on March 7, 1965, when 600 marchers were attacked by police in riot gear, who fractured Lewis’ skull on a day remembered as Bloody Sunday. Before going to the hospital, Lewis appeared before television cameras demanding intervention by President Johnson, who, eight days later, appeared before a joint session of Congress to demand passage of the Voting Rights Act. It was passed Aug. 3, 1965.
“In a decision announced this morning, the Supreme Court upheld the 1965 Voting Rights Act – a law that has done more to expand and strengthen our democracy than any other,” said Donna Brazile, who learned first hand as Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, the first election stolen by George W. Bush, mostly by suppressing the Black vote. “It’s good news – but the fight to protect voting rights doesn’t end there. Attacks on this critical law will not stop. And voter suppression tactics will continue to plague our elections.”

The Court agreed in part with the plaintiff, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 in Austin, Texas, which is backed by a conservative group opposed to the law, ruling that it can apply to opt out of the advance approval requirement in the law, reversing a lower federal court that found it could not, the Associated Press reported.

That requirement applies in 16 mostly Southern states with a history of discrimination in voting; they must get approval prior to making changes in the way they conduct elections.

But the Court rejected the plaintiff’s challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, the core provision of the Voting Rights Act. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, stated: “By an overwhelming 8 to 1 majority, the Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to turn the clock back on civil rights and acknowledged Congress’ authority to protect the right to vote.

“With the exception of Justice Clarence Thomas, the justices of the Supreme Court understand the importance of the Voting Rights Act and the progress this country has made since 1964.” Explaining his vote, Thomas said, “The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains.”

“(Chief Justice John) Roberts himself noted that blacks and whites now register and turn out to vote in similar numbers and that ‘blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.’” In an apparent attempt to downplay today’s ruling as an affirmation of Section 5, Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, said that larger issue “is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today.”

In his opinion, Roberts wrote, “The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable.” Commenting on it today, he added, “Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the preclearance requirement.”

“As a result of today’s ruling, the Voting Rights Act and its ‘preclearance’ provision remain effective tools in this nation’s ongoing struggle to guarantee an equal vote to all, regardless of race,” declared Congresswoman Lee, signaling that any attempt to further weaken the law will be vigorously opposed.

The violent history of the Voting Rights Act, considered by Martin Luther King Jr. as one of his movement’s crowning achievements, saw 600 marchers brutally attacked by police as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965, on their first of three attempts to march to Montgomery. That day will forever be remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”

“The 1965 Voting Rights Act is the crown jewel of federal civil rights laws,” writes Abigail Thernstrom, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in the right-wing National Review

“(B)lack ballots were the levers of change that white supremacists most feared. Enfranchisement, they knew, would turn African Americans into true citizens.”

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile
Arguing that the law is no longer necessary, she notes: “In February 2008, voters in an Alabama county more than 96 percent white sent a black man, James Fields, as their representative to the state House of Representatives. ‘Really, I never realize he’s black,’ a white woman, smiling, told a New York Times reporter. How many Americans today look at the president and think, ‘black’?” She didn’t say whether she’d asked any Black people.

Thernstrom, described by the National Review as the one who “wrote the book on the Voting Rights Act,” opines that “black politics has come of age, and black politicians can protect their turf, fight for their interests, and successfully compete even for the presidency, it turns out. It’s a new world.”

Wondering why the Court avoided ruling on the constitutionality of the Section 5, Walter Dellinger on  speculated: “One additional factor that might be at work is the pendency of the white New Haven firefighters’ suit, Ricci v. DiStefano. If the court is going to use that case to make a significant change in the civil rights jurisprudence known as disparate impact analysis – and we will know that soon – some justices might have been hesitant to strike down significant and long-standing remedies under both Title VII and the Voting Rights Act back to back. Substantially revising two pillars of the civil rights structure in a single week might have been too much at once.”

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) Director-Counsel John Payton observed, “The entire thrust of LDF’s argument was that Section 5 remains critical to our democracy and, however grudgingly, the Court acknowledges that in its opinion today. … Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act protects and shields the rights of minority voters from discrimination. Section 5 has long been symbolic of our nation’s long and unsteady march toward greater political equality. Without its protections, our nation would unnecessarily face the grave risk of significant backsliding and retrenchment in the fragile gains that have been made.”

The Court’s ruling today ensures that voters of color will continue to have the safeguards provided by the Section 5 preclearance process. Although the Court expanded the number of places that can seek to “bail out” or exempt themselves from preclearance, no Section 5-covered jurisdiction can do so without demonstrating a clean bill of health for a 10-year period.

The bailout provision has proven workable and achievable for those jurisdictions that have sought it. It remains to be seen how the Court’s interpretation of the bailout provision will impact enforcement of Section 5. If, for any reason, today’s ruling renders Section 5 unworkable in the future, Congress could always amend the statute.

“The utility district brought this case to tear out the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Today, it failed. The Voting Rights Act remains one of Congress’s greatest legacies,” said LDF Director of Litigation Debo P. Adegbile, who argued the case on behalf of appellee-intervenors.

“In the wake of an historic election, it’s easy to reflect on how far we’ve come,” concluded Donna Brazile. “But our democracy is still a work in progress.

“Despite today’s good news, it’s clear that this isn’t the end of the legal attacks on the Voting Rights Act – and that the next case could result in the Supreme Court striking down a key protection.

“It’s time to recommit ourselves to the fight to protect voter rights and reform our electoral system so that no American is ever denied or deterred from the right to vote.”

This story was compiled by Bay View staff from a variety of sources.

3 thoughts on “Supreme Court upholds core provision of the Voting Rights Act

  1. Rico Hendran

    r An open letter Dear Mr. President,

    Please help to stop the torture of people in Democratic Europe!

    Law enforcement officers, primarily police and security guards, have the ability to arrest people, especially dark-skinned people, in the name of law, regardless of their guilt. They can escort these people to a room, such as a dressing room (even the Law enforcement call it Swedish & German lager)! , a vehicle or another place without public views nor security cameras. There they can beat, torture or even sexually assault these people.

    When victims of such cases try to stand up for their rights and seek justice, the guilty officers have the excuse: violent resistance to the law; thus it is their duty to deal with them. Law enforcement often censors such cases so society never hears about them from the media. There have been numerous cases all over the Democratic and Humanitarian Europe (for more information 120–cases) contact Mr. Juan Fonseca, chief of Discrimination bureau in Stockholm and former member of Swedish Parliament (Cell # +46 733421988) or Amnesty International’s EU Office. Some cases are covered by the media; for example, in Swedish Channel 4 News showed a video taken with a mobile phone where European police officers are seen torturing refugees in “torture rooms.” In Stockholm, a central police station had pictures of non-Caucasian officers with “SS” written on them. There are many other similar cases happening, possibly now as you are reading this letter, and the guilty parties suffer no consequences. If this type of violence committed by law enforcement isn’t stopped, victims will continue to be damaged not just physically but mentally. This type of behaviour may result in even more violence when victims want to release their anger and aggression for this injustice. There have been numerous cases in France, Sweden and other countries where people have obtained weapons for shooting, explosions, and so on. There are even more cases in the US and around the world available online as evidence to back up this proposal in order to end these kinds of barbarian behaviors

    A possible solution to stop this type of violence would be to require all law enforcement officers to carry a small digital video camera (with a few GBs of memory), attach it to their uniforms, and require them to tape their actions on duty. It is not an expensive technology when you compare it to the costs of court when dishonourable officers are sued by their victims. The cameras should be encrypted and not able to be stopped or viewed by officers. The footage should be collected from all officers and archived daily, when they finish their working day.

    There should also be cameras placed in all law enforcement premises and officers should not be allowed to take arrested people to any "blind" places. Law enforcement communication should be recorded 24 hours a day by a higher level law enforcement unit. This unit should consist of a diverse group of people from as many different nationalities and races available in that country. The recorded materials should be publicly available for use in court.

    I sincerely hope that you will kindly consider this matter not only as President but as someone who deeply cares about humanity. I hope you will further this idea by talking to your colleagues around the world because it is the Start of new beginning to make changes and have positive effect on every country. The next generation would remember you not only as the 44th President but as someone who has done good for the entire world, making big changes for justice and human rights by stopping racism and discrimination all over the world.

    With best wishes and a hope for a better world for us and our children.

    Yours truly,

    Rico Hendran

    1. Post Restante

    104 60 Stockholm,

    Sweden cell# +46762876765

    1. Rebecca Smith

      OH my god you are the biggest LIAR ON EARTH. I live in Sweden, and nothing could be farther from the truth. EVERYTHING here is geared towards minorities and immigrants here. To the point where media does not print the names or images of 'foreign born dark skinned people' EVEN if they are convicted of heinous crimes 'to protect their privacy' however when an indigenous Swede is arrested their name and face is plastered EVERYWHERE even before the trial has begun!!

      We are told OVER AND OVER there is no problems with 3rd world immigrants perpetrating crimes or MORE crimes than Swedes, and over and over we are understanding that they are LYING. If that is true why so many 'cover ups' and blurred or pixilated images. Or even 'recreations' made with WHITE people. When a somalian got on a train stripped off all his clothing and screamed I AM A SOMALIAN WARRIOR before trying to force a woman to suck his privates and beating the conductor down, the first news article reported what he said but within a FEW HOURS the word "somalian" was deleted and his 'cctv' picture was pixilated in such a way that his blurred image appeared WHITE.

      I'm telling you if people even post on a blog that they don't like blacks or immigrants they face ARREST or paying a huge fine, and when a white swedish man sued for discrimination because minorities could call him heinous names and also degrade OUR national religion – the judge ruled that the 'racism' and 'religious offense' laws were not created to protect white swedish men, only non whites and only non christians.


      ALSO, TO THE AUTHOR OF THIS COMMENT – what the hell do you think OBAMA can do about anything? He's not EUROPEAN, he's not an EU Member, nobody even LIKES HIM, he's a disgrace and so are you.

      I know people are sick of us 'evil whites' saying this, but, IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT HERE then GTFO. Free housing, free medical, free food, free school & college even, free spending money. My husband works 12 hour nights and we live in a 2 bedroom apartment with the 2 of us and his 3 GROWN but very young sons. He works like a dog. ALL AROUND ME are 'dark skinned people' There is not a SINGLE SWEDE BUT US left in this entire apartment block. THEY ALL LIVE HERE FREE AND STILL COMPLAIN.
      I am kept awake ALL NIGHT by the incessant screaming and music and chattering and large groups of Somalians who apparently prefer to live some bizarre separate nocturnal life apart from everyone else, but I KNOW they're not out looking for work or learning Swedish BECAUSE THEY NEVER LEAVE their 'areas' and never SHUT UP. I am going INSANE listening to their screaming. ALL NIGHT LONG, for god's sake, what are they doing?

      THIS IS A WHITE COUNTRY we have just as much rights to keep our 'ways' and ourselves apart from 'dark skinned people' as blacks in Africa have to want to keep their countries BLACK. And at least we don't perpetrate GENOCIDE on blacks or arabs as the blacks in AFRICA are doing AND HAVE DONE against whites. Like Zimbabwe killing and deporting over 90% of the whites who lived there. Like South Africa where white farmers are killed at a rate over 300 times the 'normal' rate of homicide. The rapes, the tortures.


      YOU ARE SUCH A LIAR !!!!! Who do you think you are trying to tell a U.S. president what should be REQUIRED of police officers in Europe? Don't you know America has the worst police state of any western country?

      Again, and please GET OUT of Sweden, we don't want you here, not your lies, not your 'suggestions' on how to spend the 50% income tax we pay, and I'm quite sure YOU DON'T.

  2. DeathBunny2000

    Hey, did the 'core voting rights' including standing in front of polling stations with baseball bats and sticks in order to intimidate whites and keep them from voting?

    Or maybe they include voting for Obama 10 times like Ms. Lessadolla former NAACP executive in, where was it, Tupelo Mississippi? Yes voting using the names of several dead people, and with false names, voted 10 times.

    Or maybe it will include asking a 16 year old black youth to register to vote, despise his protests that he is only 16? That happened in Memphis, and did not make the news outside local news. He presented his voters registration, it said he was 23. Of course WITHOUT I.D. he would be able to vote.


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