On Tuesday, the Supreme Court effectively hollowed out the Voting Rights Act by striking down Section 4 of the 1965 law. That provision, the court said, was unconstitutional because it didn't subject all states to the same rules.
Under the Section 4 formula, states found to have historically discriminatory voting processes were subjected to Section 5 of the law, which required them to receive federal approval for any and all changes made to voting practices. Striking down Section 4 essentially voided Section 5, because without a formula to determine which states are required to comply with the preclearance provision, none will be.
The blogosphere reacted to what the decision means for the future of the landmark civil rights legislation:
The Fix's Chris Cillizza said that the Supreme Court asked Congress to create a new formula after striking down Section 4, but that may be easier said than done:
Given Congress' inability to do, well, anything, the idea that they would wade into this incredibly contentious issue at any point in the near future seems unlikely. So, if Congress does nothing, what are the political consequences?
Since the ruling is so fresh, it's difficult to know.
"There will be lots of people on all sides looking at current section 5 covered districts and seeing whether they need to be redrawn to comply with the Constitution," said the Democratic lawyer. "This will likely spur another round of redistricting changes and challenges in some places."
One potential change could be the unspooling of majority-minority districts, which had led to a significant increase in the number of black and Hispanic lawmakers serving in Congress. In states covered by the VRA, line-drawers were required to maintain the number of majority-minority districts or run afoul of pre-clearance. With Section 5 not currently enforceable, states might consider undoing some of those districts — moving reliably Democratic black and Hispanic voters into other more Republican-leaning seats and in some states making it less likely that those seats would elect Democrats.
Ed Kilgore of Political Animal said Congress' political climate almost certainly ensures the Republican House will avoid the topic:
[T]here is no reason whatsoever to think congressional Republicans are going to cooperate in a "fix" of Section 4 until we hear from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner that they want to make it a priority. When that happens (and it could happen if GOP strategists decide that advancing a "fix" that virtually eliminates Section 5 coverage makes more sense than just accepting the Court's decision as making it a dead letter), then we can talk.
It does occur to me, however, that under the same theory whereby it is suggested that House Republicans might get out of the way and let House Democrats (with a smattering of Republicans) enact comprehensive immigration reform, it's theoretically possible, for much of the same rationale of not wanting to get blamed for killing legislation important to minority voters, that House Republicans could "let" Democrats restore Sections 4 and 5.
We should all be able to agree, however, that this emphatically is not the kind of agenda that conservative "base" voters want from "their" U.S. House of Representatives. So psychologically, the advent of a Democratic drive to "fix" the Voting Rights Act may make it even harder for congressional Republicans to quietly cooperate on immigration as well. All sorts of conservative tripwires are being touched, and by the August recess at the latest, a major RINO hunt should be underway wherever Republicans gather.