By Michael YEGHIAYAN
In response to a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act, local Congressman Adam Schiff called on action from Congress to ensure future protection for potential voters. Tuesday’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder ruled Section 4 of the landmark law unconstitutional, allowing nine states to make changes to their electoral law without approval from the federal government.
The Voting Rights Act, introduced in 1965, was designed to protect minorities from discrimination during the voting process. The overturned section of the law identified states with a history of discrimination and prevented them from making electoral decisions that could cause voter suppression. In addition to the nine states identified by the law, a number of counties were affected across the country.
Electoral law has been a focal point in a number of recent national elections, particularly on the constitutionality of voter identification laws, restrictions on early voting, and the practice of remapping districts.
Rep. Schiff disagreed with the Supreme Court decision and rejected the idea that the country has moved beyond the possibility of racial discrimination.
“I’m deeply disappointed that a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The fact that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool to protect voting rights is a reason to let it stand, not to end it,” said Rep. Schiff in a statement. “I was a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 2006 when we undertook a bipartisan reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act by carefully calibrating the preclearance requirement to states and localities with histories of voting discrimination.”
The majority ruled that the restrictions were an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights and argued that the law was no longer necessary to prevent voter discrimination. In Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion, he outlined that the decision does not affect Section 5 of the law, allowing the restrictions to be reintroduced by Congress under different parameters.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responded with a strong dissent that was summarized from her bench, an uncommon occurrence that underscores her disagreement. The former civil rights attorney argued that discrimination still exists, albeit in different forms than in 1965, and that the Supreme Court overstepped in its limitation of Congressional power.
The Voting Rights Act has been brought before Congress with regularity and has a long history of strong bipartisan support. In a 2006 reauthorization of the law, the House of Representatives voted in support by a 390 to 33 margin and it passed unanimously in the Senate.
Although Congressional action on the law is considered unlikely to succeed, Rep. Schiff was unambiguous in calling for legislative action in restoring the federal guidelines established in Section 4.
“In the wake of the Court’s decision, Congress must again take up the Voting Rights Act to update the Section 4 coverage formula and ensure that the right of all Americans to participate in the democratic process – regardless of race or ethnicity – is protected.”