What happened yesterday? The Supreme Court struck down a major provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, essentially gutting the Act of its power. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S. Although the 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, provided that, "The right of U.S. citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Also the Amendment gave Congress the authority to enforce those rights and regulate the voting process. However, soon after the end of Reconstruction, starting in the 1870s, Southern Democratic legislators found other means to deny the vote to blacks, through violence, intimidation, and Jim Crow laws. And from 1890 to 1908, 10 Southern states wrote new constitutions with provisions that included literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses that collectively disenfranchised blacks. These state provisions were upheld by the Supreme Court. During the early 20th century, as Afrikan Americans and poor whites began to legally challenges these state laws, southern states devised new legislation to continue Black disfranchisement. And although there were numerous court cases brought before the Supreme Court, through the 1960s, Southern states effectively disfranchised most blacks. Hence, the need for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The VRA had 5 provisions or sections, the mostly important seemingly being Section 5, which required the United States Department of Justice, through an administrative procedure, or a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, through a declaratory judgment action "preclear" any attempt to change “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting..." in any "covered jurisdiction. In Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts, in a 5-4 decision, took no action on the strict “preclearance” restrictions in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act itself. (Justice Clarence Thomas joined Roberts’ opinion but also wrote separately “to explain that I would find Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional as well.”) Under Section 5, state and local political subdivisions need federal government approval to make any change to their voting policies and systems. The court did, however, strike down Section 4’s coverage formula, which determines what jurisdictions have to follow Section 5’s restrictions. In other words, which states are not pointed out as needing preclearance or the way they were selected, is now unconstitutional. The problem is that Section 5 cannot be effectuated without Section 4. So really the court has eviscerated Section 5 by attacking Section 4.
The court has put the ball in Congresses' hand, saying they must devised a new formula for deciding the states that will need preclearance in other to changes state voting laws. Therefore, unless Congress can “draft another formula” — and pass it — there is no coverage formula in place to which Section 5’s restrictions apply. Again, the court it did not rule on the constitutional validity of the idea that some places have such strong records of discrimination that they must seek federal approval before they may change their voting rules, it just stated the present coverage formula for selecting such states is antiquated. Presently the formula includes (counties) in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia (all Tea Party strongholds.) The Conservative is doing nothing more than boistering conservatism because in reality, the justices are aware that in the present politically partisan and contentious environment, Congress will be unable to agree on a new coverage clearance (they weren't able to do so in 2006, and that was pre-Obama). And so the preclearance rule will lie dormant, and state provisions will return. And at the top of the list of provisions is voter-identification laws.
TEN IMPORTANT SUPREME COURT CASES RELEVANT TO AFRIKAN AMERICANS
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) Decreed a slave was his master's property and African Americans were not citizens; struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional.
Civil Rights Cases (1883) A number of cases are addressed under this Supreme court decision. Decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (the last federal civil rights legislation until the Civil Rights Act of 1957) was unconstitutional. Allowed private sector segregation.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) The Court stated that segregation was legal and constitutional as long as "facilities were equal"—the famous "separate but equal" segregation policy.
Powell v. Alabama (1932) The Supreme Court overturned the "Scottsboro Boys'” convictions and guaranteed counsel in state and federal courts.
Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) The justices ruled that a court may not constitutionally enforce a "restrictive covenant" which prevents people of certain race from owning or occupying property.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) Reversed Plessy v. Ferguson "separate but equal" ruling. "[S]egregation [in public education] is a denial of the equal protection of the laws."
Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964) This case challenged the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court ruled that the motel had no right "to select its guests as it sees fit, free from governmental regulation."
Loving v. Virginia (1967) This decision ruled that the prohibition on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. Sixteen states that still banned interracial marriage at the time were forced to revise their laws.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) The decision stated that affirmative action was unfair if it lead to reverse discrimination.
Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) The decision upheld affirmative action's constitutionality in education, as long it employed a "highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file" and did not consider race as a factor in a "mechanical way."