U.S. Supreme Court

Scalia: Reauthorized Voting Rights Act was 'perpetuation of racial entitlement'

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File photo of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin
Scalia courtesy of ABA Media Services.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservatives appeared ready to strike down preclearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act during oral arguments on Wednesday.

All eyes were on swing voter Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose questions mostly appeared to favor the challenge to the law’s advance approval requirement by Shelby County, Ala., the New York Times reports. Kennedy asked whether Alabama is an “independent sovereign” or whether it must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.”

Also covering the arguments were The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.

Nine states, mostly in the South, and parts of seven others are required to get advance Justice Department approval of any changes to voting practices under the law. The list of preclearance jurisdictions has not changed since 1975, the New York Times says. At issue is whether Congress exceeded its authority under the 14th and 15th Amendments when it reauthorized the law with a coverage formula based on old data.

Scalia noted that opposition to the law has decreased with each reauthorization, until no one opposed it in 2006, according to The BLT account.

“I think that’s attributable to a phenomenon that has been called the perpetuation of racial entitlements,” Scalia said. “Once you enact them, it’s very hard to get out. I’m fairly confident this will be re-enacted in perpetuity” unless a court steps in to examine the justification. “The concern here is this is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress.”

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “Chemerinsky: ‘Stakes are enormous’ in voting rights case”

ABAJournal.com: “Historically discriminatory areas should need preapproval for election change, says ABA amicus brief”

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-Stockbroker Is Behind Supreme Court Cases Challenging Race in Admissions, Voting Rights Act”

ABAJournal.com: “US Supreme Court to Review Voting Rights Act Case Out of Shelby County, Ala.”

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