Fallout from Shelby County v. Holder decision

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

If you were upset with the U.S. Supreme Court for its ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, you should be outraged at the court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, crippling the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The “Felonious Five” conservative activist Justices of the Court demonstrated in orders today just how far they intend to go in applying this decision — it is now open season for GOP voter suppression and gerrymandered redistricting.

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog explains:

The Supreme Court, acting swiftly to promote further review of voting
rights under federal law, told lower courts on Thursday to take a new
look at two Texas cases involving a photo ID law for voters and a new
set of redistricting plans for the state’s delegation in Congress and
for members of the two houses of its state legislature.

In both cases, the Justices wiped out lower court rulings that had
refused to give legal clearance to the photo ID law and the new election
districting plans. The lower courts are now to apply the Supreme
Court’s ruling on Tuesday in Shelby County v. Holder,
(docket 12-96), striking down one key part of the Voting Rights Act of
1965.  Because the Supreme Court’s actions did not resolve the cases
finally, the two Texas laws at issue will now remain in legal limbo, at
least for a few weeks.

The constitutional fate of voting rights laws in nine states and a
number of local governments around the nation has been put in deep doubt
by the Court’s Shelby County ruling. That decision nullified
the 1965 federal law’s formula for determining which states and local
governments must go through the unusual procedure of getting official
approval in Washington before they may put into effect any new law or
procedure on voting or elections. The decision left the preclearance
requirement formally intact, but in peril because of the lack of a
formula for which jurisdictions must obey it.

With that formula (under the 1965 law’s Section 4) now legally dead,
and with uncertainty about whether Congress will replace it with a new
version, the duty of state and local governments already covered by the
preclearance requirement (under the law’s Section 5) is open to serious
question.

The Court might have at least started to answer that question had it
granted full review of either one of the Texas cases — the voter ID
case, Texas v. Holder (12-1028), or the redistricting case, Texas v. United States (12-496)
— but it did not do that.  Instead, it vacated separate rulings by
three-judge U.S. District Courts in Washington, D.C., and told those
courts to look again at federal challenges to those laws. In the
redistricting case, the lower court was also told to consider a
suggestion that the case is now legally dead (“moot”), because in recent
days the Texas legislature has replaced all of the specific election
maps that were at issue
.

When the district courts take up the cases anew, the three-judge
panels will have the option of ordering a new round of written
arguments, on the impact of the Shelby County ruling, or proceeding on the basis of the cases as they stood when Texas filed separate appeals at the Supreme Court.

In the voter ID case, Texas had argued in the lower court that, if
that law did not get preclearance under the 1965 law, then that law’s
preclearance Section 5 should be struck down. The district court had
never reached that issue, though, because Texas asked for — and was
granted — a delay on that point so that the state could go on to the
Supreme Court on the preclearance issue alone. Thus, the District Court
will now have to decide whether to move on to that issue, as well as
deciding how to sort out the impact of the end of the coverage formula.

If the redistricting case is declared moot because there are entirely
new maps now in existence, that case could wash out as a further test
of the impact of the Shelby County decision by the Justices
.

You may recall that the U.S. Supreme Court previously approved a mid-decade congressional redistricting plan in Texas that in 2004 that resulted in Republicans taking a majority of the House seats for the first time since Reconstruction. League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 548 U. S. 399 (2006). According to the court, only District 23 of the 2003 Texas redistricting violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The Hill reports, Rep. Jackson Lee looks to limit state redistricting after voting rights ruling:

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is introducing legislation that would block states from rearranging their congressional districts until after a 10-year Census takes place, a reaction to the Supreme Court ruling striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act.

“We cannot afford to sit back and watch our country move backwards — as legislators we must act,” Jackson Lee said Wednesday. “[B]ased on the Shelby case and its rationale, it is clear that Voting Rights Act is needed more than ever.”

* * *

Voting rights advocates say the decision could spur state officials to loosen the rules they use for redistricting decisions.

“The Voting Rights Act has been one of the most effective civil-rights laws passed by Congress and needs to be reinforced vigorously,” said Jackson Lee on Wednesday about her measure, the Coretta Scott King Mid-decade Redistricting Prohibition Act.

The bill would prevent any immediate redistricting decisions, and would only allow states to redistrict after the 10-year Census. The language would only apply to federal elections, not state and local elections. The prohibition on mid-decade redistricting, however, could be overturned by a court decision.

(See LULAC v. Perry above).

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