Consistent with arguments in Pacific Legal Foundation’s amicus brief, the U.S. Supreme Court held today that Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula, which requires certain “covered” local jurisdictions to receive federal approval before instituting new election procedures, is unconstitutional.
PLF’s brief argued that Congress’s reauthorization of Section 5 under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4 was unconstitutional. PLF Attorney Lana Harfoush issued this statement after today’s ruling by the Supreme Court:
“Change happens, and the Supreme Court was right to insist that Congress must catch up with the times on issues of voting rights. Section 4’s coverage formula is an antique piece, created in and for a bygone era when the legacy of Jim Crow was still alive in the South and federal intervention was an appropriate response to an extreme situation. But Congress has refused to acknowledge the momentous changes that have come to the regions covered by the Voting Rights Act. Congress has been legislating on voting rights with its eyes fixed firmly in the rear-view mirror. In fact, Section 4’s coverage formula is based on decades-old data from the 1960s and 70s and practices that no longer exist anywhere. Congress renewed problematic sections of the Voting Rights Act, with all its intrusive micromanagement of state and local jurisdictions, without demonstrating a present-day need to do so. And by ignoring the realities of today, Congress has been ignoring its constitutional obligations. In our federalist system, Washington can’t usurp the role of local governments and second-guess their electoral processes, without a clear factual justification. Congress didn’t provide such a justification for extending the coverage formula. That’s wrong – and unconstitutional. Thankfully, the Court recognized that today.”