(June 22, 2009): The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) today praised the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder(08-322) as “a step in the right direction toward constitutional ‘bailout’ from the stringent oversight of the Voting Rights Act.”
SLF, which participated as amicus curiae in the seminal case, presented arguments to the high court that objective statistical analysis demonstrates that the type of voter intimidation and lack of voter participation among minority groups that Sect. V of the Voting Rights Act was intended to remedy no longer exists to the extent necessary to justify the ongoing application of the harsh law.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 8-member majority, said that ongoing application of Sect. V “raises serious constitutional concerns.” The majority decision holds that all local government units must be given the option to “bail out” of the Sect. V requirement to seek federal government approval for any changes to election procedures or laws. As a result, the case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings in which NAMUDNO seeks to bail out from Sect. V requirements.
Justice Clarence Thomas, directly citing SLF’s amicus brief in 3 separate instances, filed a partial dissent in which he said that allowing local government ‘bail out’ was insufficient and that constitutional problems with Sect. V would lead him to strike it down altogether. Justice Thomas, referring to evidence submitted by SLF, said that “evidence of ‘second-generation barriers’ cannot compare to the prevalent and pervasive voting discrimination of the 1960s.”