Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down the coverage formula provision of the Voting Rights Act, Section 4. Chief Justice Roberts writing for the Court held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.
Chief Justice Roberts writes that Section 4 is unconstitutional in light of current conditions. In 1966, the formula was rational in both practice and theory. Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The Court makes clear that "Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula [of Section 4]. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions."
Justice Thomas concurs, and argues that he would strike down Section 5 preclearance as well.
Justice Ginsburg dissents, joined by Justices Breyer Sotomayor, and Kagan. In Justice Ginsburg's dissent, she says "In the Court's view, the very success of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy."
Justice Ginsburg is correct: until Congress enacts a new Section 4 formula, the Department of Justice and the courts are without guidance on how to evaluate Section 5 preclearance. This ruling effectively suspends Section 5 until a new formula is enacted.
Here is the opinion in
Shelby County (.pdf).
There will be substantial commentary today on the effects of this ruling.
Amy Howe from SCOTUSblog: Today’s holding in Shelby County v. Holder, in Plain English: Today the Court issued its decision in Shelby County v.
Holder, the challenge to the constitutionality of the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That portion of the Act was designed to prevent discrimination in voting by requiring all state and local governments with a history of voting discrimination to get approval from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures, no matter how small. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required. But much more importantly, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it.
From the Chief Justice: "Tomorrow at 10 a.m. will be the last day and we will release all the remaining  opinions." Wednesday is marriage equality day.