WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued last week that the court may need to reject the key element of the Voting Rights Act because political pressures would prevent Congress itself from doing so.
“I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act,” Scalia said during a Supreme Court hearing. “And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. That’s the concern that those of us who have some questions about this statute have. It’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress.”
Whatever Scalia’s talents as a jurist, those skills do not include vote-counting in the United States Senate. The Huffington Post asked a sampling of Senate Republicans and found that, contrary to Scalia’s presumption, some of his legislative branch colleagues across the street are just as ready as he is to toss out the heart of the Voting Rights Act, its Section 5, which prevents states with a history of racial discrimination from altering their voting laws without federal approval.
It is, to be fair, a horribly difficult question for a Southern senator. Agreeing that Section 5 needs to remain in place, as the overwhelming majority of them did when the law was reauthorized in 2006, is an implicit admission that the state apparatus is still tilted against African Americans. But rejecting Section 5 is an insult to that same community, suggesting, in the face of everyday evidence, that the legacy of slavery and discrimination is ancient history.
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