In a 5-4 majority decision by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, the United States Supreme Court struck down a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act setting forth which states needed advance federal approval from the Justice Department for such things as proposed election changes like voter identification. This action by the United States Supreme Court places future remedies squarely within Congressional jurisdiction.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts pointed to increased voter registration by minorities in many areas of the country with particular emphasis on the Deep South. In essence, the 1965 Voting Rights Act has statistical weighting metrics that are not up-to-date, according to Roberts.
Essentially, this new ruling by the Supreme Court places the onus on the Congress to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act by coming up with a new metric for determining which areas of the country still require special attention from the Justice Department prior to implementing any changes to election protocols or voter identification.
Some states like New York have appended voter registration forms to motor vehicle license renewal. This is an excellent idea because it facilitates voter registration. Another possibility is to link voter registration to the immigration reform package in Congress so that people can complete voter registration when they are awarded full citizenship. Generally speaking, people are required to demonstrate literacy some time prior to becoming full citizens under the current immigration law.
Congress should revisit the 1965 Voting Rights Act and provide clearer guidance on the metric which sets forth circumstances where states in the Deep South and elsewhere require prior Justice Department approval before making election changes. Until such action is taken, it will be more difficult for the Justice Department to hold individual states in the Deep South fully accountable for any contemplated changes in voter identification and election protocols.
Originally, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was put into place to prohibit or make more difficult various instrumentalities that were aimed at keeping minorities away from the polls, such things as the dreaded poll tax, subjective literacy tests, and artful redistricting schemes aimed at marginalizing the impact of minority voting.
States like New York have stumbled upon solutions to facilitating voter registration. Congress should reform immigration law to facilitate voter registration. In addition, the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act should be amended to clarify how the metric is to be applied today to states in the Deep South (and elsewhere).
Once the Congress clarifies how the metric should be applied, the Justice Department can intervene in instances where potential injustices are identified.