Voting Rights Act hanging by a thread?
By LINDA GREENHOUSE, NYT
Despite spending a lot of time reading and thinking about the Voting Rights Act case the Supreme Court will hear next week, there’s a puzzle I’m still trying to crack:
How can it be that one of the crowning achievements of the civil rights movement, a provision upheld on four previous occasions by the Supreme Court and re-enacted in 2006 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress (98-0 in the Senate, 390-33 in the House), a law that President George W. Bush urged the justices to uphold again four years ago in one of his final acts in office, a law that has demonstrably defeated myriad efforts both flagrant and subtle to suppress or dilute the African-American vote, is now hanging by a thread?
Of the hanging-by-a-thread part, there’s little doubt. Four years ago, in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. One v. Holder, a case commonly referred to as Namudno, the Supreme Court came within a hair’s breadth of declaring the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 unconstitutional. “Things have changed in the South,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. declared in the court’s opinion, an oft-quoted line of pithy constitutional analysis that took its place with the chief justice’s other profound musings on race in America. (The others, so far, are “It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race,” dissenting in 2006 from a decision awarding a rare victory to Latino plaintiffs who had sued to invalidate a Texas congressional district; and “The way to end racial discrimination is to stop discriminating by race,” in a 2007 plurality opinion striking down integration-preserving efforts by public school districts in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle.)