(A Supreme Court decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder is expected within the next several weeks)
Sacramento, CA; Pacific Legal Foundation Principal Attorney Sharon L. Browne explains the details and importance of a widely watched Voting Rights Act case, in a podcast produced for the Federalist Society (http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/pubid.1429/pub_detail.asp), and linked at PLF’s Web site: www.pacificlegal.org.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. At issue is the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This is the "preclearance" rule that requires targeted states and localities – and only those targeted states and localities – to receive federal permission before they make changes, no matter how minute, in how they conduct their elections.
Because federal supervision of state and local elections is in tension with principles of federalism, it is allowed (as permissible congressional enforcement of the 15th Amendment’s voting-rights protections) only if there is genuine discrimination that needs to be fought.
As Sharon Browne notes in her podcast, Congress did not have sufficient evidence when it reauthorized Section 5 in 2006. In fact, the evidence points the other way: The unconscionable vote suppression tactics that gave rise to Section 5 have long since been eradicated, and Southern states today have a high level of voting by African-Americans as well as large numbers of minority officeholders.
In the case before the Supreme Court, a small utility district in Texas has been subjected to preclearance requirements, even though its voting procedures have never elicited any complaints, let alone any lawsuits for discrimination of any kind.
PLF’s amicus brief: Citing the Obama achievement
PLF’s amicus brief in the case has been widely reported on, including in a Washington Post article, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/31/AR2009033104425.html?hpid=moreheadlines, which highlighted a passage challenging the continued need and justification for federal micromanagement of local voting procedures when there is no evidence of discrimination. "Is a law conceived in the time of Jim Crow still relevant in the age of Barack Obama?" asked the Post article, which went on to quote PLF’s brief as follows: "President Obama’s election ‘stands as a remarkable testament to the tremendous progress this country has made in terms of racial equality and voting rights,’ Pacific Legal Foundation and others said in a brief filed with the court."
PLF s amicus brief was submitted in conjunction with the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) and Project 21, the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.
Project 21, the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, is an initiative of The National Center for Public Policy Research to promote the views of African-Americans whose entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to family, and commitment to individual responsibility have not traditionally been echoed by the nation’s civil rights establishment. Project 21 seeks to make America a better place for African-Americans, and all Americans, to live and work.
The Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) is a nonprofit research and educational organization devoted to issues of race and ethnicity, such as civil rights, bilingual education, and immigration and assimilation. CEO supports color blind public policies and seeks to block the expansion of racial preferences and to prevent their use in, for instance, employment, education, and voting.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulation, in courts across the country.