SCOTUS rules on Voting Rights Act
As expected, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which deals with federal pre-clearence of election laws in nine states and parts of several others. In an 8 to 1 decision, the law will remain intact:
With only one Justice voting to strike down Congress’s 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act’s controversial Section 5, the Supreme Court on Monday interpreted the law in a way that saves it. The Court said that all local units of government must be given the option to bail out of the requirement that they get Washington approval for any changes in their election laws or methods.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., writing for an eight-member majority in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder (08-322), said that Section 5 has achieved “historic accomplishments,” but “now raises serious constitutional concerns.”
And, he said, while the Court would not shrink from its duty to apply the Constitution to block “legislative encroachments,” the Court also was obliged to decide a case by interpreting the scope of legislation if that route is available as an alternative to striking down the law altogether. That is the option it chose.
“The importance of the question does not justify our rushing to decide it,” the Chief Justice wrote. “Our usual practice is to avoid the unnecessary resolution of constitutional questions. We agree that the [utility] district is eligible under the Act to seek bailout. We therefore reverse [the District Court]l, and do not reach the constitutionality of Sec. 5.”
Justice Clarance Thomas was the sole dissenter, though only in part, in the case. You can read the opinion and dissent here.