From The Oyez Project:
The Fourteenth Amendment protects every person’s right to due process of law. The Fifteenth Amendment protects citizens from having their right to vote abridged or denied due to “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Tenth Amendment reserves all rights not expressly granted to the federal government to the individual states. Article Four of the Constitution guarantees the right of self-government for each state.
The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was enacted as a response to the nearly century-long history of voting discrimination. Section 5 prohibits eligible districts from enacting changes to their election laws and procedures without gaining official authorization. Section 4(b) defines the eligible districts as ones that had a voting test in place as of November 1, 1964 and less than 50% turnout for the 1964 presidential election. Such districts must prove to the Attorney General or a three-judge panel of a Washington, D.C. district court that the change “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect” of negatively impacting any individual’s right to vote based on race or minority status. Section 5 was originally enacted for five years, but has been continually renewed since that time.
Shelby County, Alabama, filed suit in district court and sought both a declaratory judgment that Section 5 and Section 4(b) are unconstitutional and a permanent injunction against their enforcement. The district court upheld the constitutionality of the Sections and granted summary judgment for the Attorney General. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that Congress did not exceed its powers by reauthorizing Section 5 and that Section 4(b) is still relevant to the issue of voting discrimination.
Does the renewal of Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act under the constraints of Section 4(b) exceed Congress’ authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and therefore violate the Tenth Amendment and Article Four of the Constitution?
ORAL ARGUMENT OF BERT W. REIN ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We’ll hear argument first this morning in Case 12-96, Shelby County v. Holder.
Bert W Rein: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Almost 4 years ago, eight Justices of the Court agreed the 2005 25-year extension of Voting Rights Act Section 5’s preclearance obligation, uniquely applicable to jurisdictions reached by Section 4(b)’s antiquated coverage formula, raised a serious constitutional question.
Those Justices recognized that the record before the Congress in 2005 made it unmistakable that the South had changed.
They questioned whether current remedial needs justified the extraordinary federalism and cost burdens of preclearance.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: May I ask you a question?
Assuming I accept your premise, and there’s some question about that, that some portions of the South have changed, your county pretty much hasn’t.
Bert W Rein: Well, I–
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: In — in the period we’re talking about, it has many more discriminating — 240 discriminatory voting laws that were blocked by Section 5 objections.
There were numerous remedied by Section 2 litigation.
You may be the wrong party bringing this.