The Effects on Voting Laws after the Shelby v Holder Supreme Court Ruling - 14

Supreme Court Oral Argument Highlights and Excerpts (continued),
and the Decision


Justice Breyer than continued by citing a difference, which he termed a "key difference," between what Mr. Rein expressed as a problem solved, and the still existing matter of a State's "denial or abridgement… for a resident of that State to vote on the foundation "of race and color." He noted that Mr. Rein identified the problem being that the devices that were used for picking out States that were to be covered was certain instruments such as "literacy tests, etc." and said that if that were the case Mr. Rein would have "a much stronger case." But if Justice Breyer's point of view detailing "denial or abridgement" were the facts of the matter his case would not be as sturdy. He completed his address to Mr. Rein by asking "So how, in your opinion, do we decide" what exact problem was Congress addressing in the Voting Rights Act?

Mr. Rein again referred to Katzenbach, and then said that the premise that it should be considered by is "the four corners of the Voting Rights Act. It responds to limited registration and voting as measured and the use of devices." He then went on to state that Congress definitively resolved this as "the devices are gone." Stating that due to that fact, it couldn't be the foundation for "further legislation." He went on to say that he thought that Congress understood that the original problem was addressed and was very effectively resolved by Section 5, but it's done its work. He noted that people who were previously hindered are now registering and being permitted to vote. He then cited Justice Scalia's prior point that Senators would most likely not vote against its reenactment attributable to a large amount of their constituency having "wedded themselves" to it and doing so could possibly hurt them politically or in the least "do them no good." He also mentioned that there was a different constituency in 1964 than there is now.

His rebuttal winding down, Mr. Rein said "coming to the point," if the Court believes there is still discrimination, it would need to be examined throughout the Country in its entirety." He then stated that in 1965 they didn't explore some of the traits "of dilution and the like" although they would have found them to be widespread.  But the issue at the time was the deliberate denial of the rights guaranteed under the Fifteenth Amendment. The actions were taken only in response to a severe situation where individuals were being hindered from the registration process and ultimately the ability to vote.

Chief Justice Roberts thanked Mr. Rein for his testimony and completed proceedings by submitting the case.

Four months after the conclusion of testimony and arguments the Supreme Court handed down its decision on June 25, 2013. In the vote which tallied at 5-4, the Supreme Court decided that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts writes, "We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions." As explained in detail throughout these pages, Section 4 establishes the formula that defines which jurisdictions must submit to Section 5 preclearance and must get permission from the Attorney General or a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to make changes to any existing laws concerning voting. So basically, although Section 5 in itself was not struck down by the Court, its effectiveness becomes moot based on the decision. Although the Court fundamentally tossed the ability to rewrite Section 4's formula "based on current conditions" back to Congress, it's considered by many that the issue of Section 4's renovation won't make it to the floor of the House of Representatives during its current session.

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