June 25, 2013

Court Ends Profiling of Southern States

Statement of Committee for Justice president Curt Levey on today’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder concerning the Voting Rights Act:

The Committee for Justice applauds the Supreme Court’s decision ending the federal government’s irrational discrimination against southern states based on an outdated, 50 year old formula.  While there was a rational basis for targeting southern states (plus Alaska) when the preclearance formula was written 50 years ago, continuing to do so until today amounted to geographic profiling based on outdated stereotypes.  Decisions based on such irrational stereotypes are the essence of impermissible discrimination.

Although there is already plenty of howling about this decision, this is not a Court that is unsympathetic to voting rights. Just last week, the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, struck down an Arizona law demanding proof of citizenship from people registering to vote.  Moreover, even today’s decision took a narrow, cautious approach.  The Justices did not strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, just the formula used to implement it. And the heart of the Act, Section 2, remains intact.  The overreaction to the decision simply underscores the courage it took for the Supreme Court to right this wrong and end geographic profiling.