Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) may have just offered up exactly what Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservative wing of the Supreme Court has been asking for: another reason to strike Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Abbott amended the state’s lawsuit against the federal government over its rejection of their new voter ID law to include a direct challenge to the constitutionality of the preclearance requirement of the VRA. That section forces states with a history of racial discrimination and minority disenfranchisement to have their election laws precleared by either the federal government or in a D.C. court.
Texas argues that Section 5 exceeds the enumerated powers of Congress and violates the Tenth Amendment. It’s a popular argument of foes of preclearance requirements, and if the Roberts Court disagrees, could form the basis of undoing significant federal civil rights protections.
The question now is will the Roberts Court hear the challenge and issue a ruling before the November election? There is a slight possibility that happens. The Court’s current term will adjourn in June, so it is unlikely it gets heard before then. But if Texas argues its voter ID law for the November election, and it likely will, the Court could decide to hear the case as early as September and before the normal October start of the new Court term says law professor Rick Hansen.
Conservatives have been looking for a way to attack federal voting rights protections for decades now and unfortunately seem to have the momentum right now. Expect the Supreme Court to hear this case and, depending on how the issue gets framed, we could see a 5-4 decision unraveling the Voting Rights Act.
Photo from cjc4454 via flickr.