A divided panel of judges on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act -- which requires certain states to have changes to their voting laws approved by the Justice Department -- on Friday, setting up a likely hearing on the topic before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Congress, the majority ruled, "drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered and acted pursuant to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote—surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution—is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the People’s elected representatives."
Law school professor Rick Hasen says he expects the case, brought by Shelby County, will end up in the Supreme Court in short order.
"I expect Shelby County to seek cert., and for the Court to agree to hear this case next term, with a decision likely by June 2013," writes Hasen. "It is also possible that another one of these cases, such as the Texas or South Carolina section 5 challenges related to their voter i.d. laws, could leapfrog over these cases and be heard first by the Court."
Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said the ruling "recognizes the need to uphold the Voting Rights Act in order to ensure every eligible American citizen can vote, regardless of race or language ability. Our cherished right to vote is under a continuous attack in Alabama and across the country, and millions of voters could be blocked from voting in upcoming elections. It is crystal clear that we must have these protections in place so that does not happen.”