Texas officials respond in battle over recent VRA decision

[JURIST] Texas officials responded [text, PDF] Monday to a US Department of Justice [official website] filing asking the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] to subject the state to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [JURIST backgrounder]. In a 54-page filing, the Texas officials argued that the Obama administration cannot impose preclearance on Texas while remaining faithful to the constitutional principles evoked in the recent Supreme Court decision [opinion, PDF] in Shelby County v. Holder [SCOTUSblog backgrounder]. According to the response:

The Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County makes clear that the extreme sovereignty-infringing remedy of preclearance is constitutionally suspect and may be applied only in response to rampant, widespread, recalcitrant discrimination akin to what originally justified the preclearance regime in 1965.
The state of Texas and the Obama administration are relying on differing interpretations of section 3 [SCOTUSblog report] of the VRA.

In late June the Supreme Court ruled [JURST report] 5-4 in Shelby County that section 4 of the VRA is unconstitutional, and its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Thomas would have struck down section 5 based on the same reasoning the court used to strike section 4. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. According to Ginsburg, Congress, and not the Court should decide whether section 5 "remains justifiable." Congress voted in 2006 to extend the VRA [JURIST report] for another 25 years.

 

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