Conservative justices on the Supreme Court continued to express strong reservations today about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (1965), suggesting the key provision of the law might be in danger.That section of the law says that certain states, mostly in the South, must get any changes to voting regulations precleared by federal officials in Washington, D.C.
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. began by saying that the Voting Rights Act "made a huge difference in transforming the culture of blatantly racist vote suppression that characterized parts of this country for a century. Section 5 preclearance was the principal engine of that progress."
But Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern that Congress, when reauthorizing the law in 2006 for 25 more years, used an outdated coverage formula that singles out only a few statesmostly in the South. He asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli: "Is it the government's submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?"
The jurisdictions covered under the law include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia as well as portions of California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.
Justice Samuel Alito said "there's no question that the Voting Rights Act has done enormous good. " But he said that when Congress reauthorized it, it should have considered a new determination of which states should be covered. "Maybe the whole country should be covered. Or maybe certain parts of the country should be covered based on a formula that is grounded in up-to-date statistics, " he said.