For Release: June 22, 2009
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or
or [email protected]
Black Leader Criticizes Voting Rights Act Supreme Court Compromise
Justices Note “Serious Constitutional Concerns,” Yet Do Nothing to Fix Problem
Washington, D.C. - A failure by the U.S. Supreme Court to act decisively to fix an inherent problem within the Voting Rights Act is drawing the condemnation of the chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network.
"As with affirmative action, the Court recognizes the unconstitutionality at issue but refuses to go the distance to make things right," said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. "The only certainty of this ruling is that the problem will continue to fester. The question to be pondered now is how many aggrieved voting districts will knuckle under to overbearing and unnecessary federal standards because the justices chose to kick the can down the road rather than actually do something about the problem."
In its ruling in the case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, all of the justices agreed that the "preclearance" provisions of Section 5 the Voting Rights Act - which still requires nine states and many other counties and localities to clear all electoral changes with the U.S. Department of Justice - are outdated. The decision, however, simply sends the case back to the district court with the instructions that representatives of this particular voting district can apply to seek relief.
Even though Chief Justice John Roberts noted that "we are a very different nation" than when the Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965, he still wrote in his majority opinion: "Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today."
Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court's only black justice and the sole dissenter in the case, was critical of his colleagues for not addressing Section 5's constitutionality, writing: "The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this Court to uphold it no longer remains."
"It's deeply disappointing that the Court chose to avoid its responsibility and rule Section 5 unconstitutional," added Project 21's Massie. "By allowing potential relief on a case-by-case basis, the Court is denying equal justice to all. The only reason is likely a lack of intestinal fortitude in dealing with the predicted outcry of the professional racemongers - who already cajoled Congress into renewing the Act without due diligence three years ago. So much for checks and balances."
Project 21 participated in the case by joining an amici curiae ("friend of the Court") brief on the case with the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Center for Equal Opportunity. The brief sought to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, pointing out that the conditions existing at the time the Act was written no longer exist and thus render the regional preclearance regulation of Section 5 obsolete. A copy of the brief can be obtained at http://tw5.us/UJ.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.