Here’s an example – in a debate stretched over two segments on Up w/ Chris Hayes, Why States Are Treated Differently Under Section 5 and What Section 5 Has Accomplished – of how conservatives move the goalposts in any context where a minority’s privileges are successfully challenged, in this case voting rights. It’s hard to distinguish The National Center for Public Policy Research line from conservative boilerplate.
In the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., Shelby County officials want the Court to invalidate “preclearance” standards imposed on specific states and localities by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Due to reports of discriminatory behavior during the 1964 elections, states and localities covered under the Act are required to obtain federal approval for all voting procedure changes. This requirement, imposed 48 years ago, was intended to be temporary.
Although preclearance standards were considered to be an “extreme temporary measure” when adopted, Congress has repeatedly failed to address changing demographics and the evolution of American society during reauthorizations of the Act. As noted in Project 21‘s brief: “Section 5… is not consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution… [N]ew circumstances now place even covered jurisdictions well ahead of where non-covered jurisdictions were in 1965, and provide an ongoing political check against backsliding. The urgent necessity for extreme measures such as preclearance is thus well past, and such legislation is no longer appropriate.”
The brief points out: “That Section 5 has become a tool for requiring racial classifications and race-based redistricting illustrates how far this remedy has fallen from the more noble purposes that animated it in 1965.” Shelby County officials are suing to end the onerous process of applying and waiting for federal approval of even minor and popularly-supported actions related to the voting process. The lawsuit is not meant to have the Court overturn the Voting Rights Act in its entirety, but merely remedy the “dramatic upheaval to the relationship between the federal government and the states” caused by Section 5’s preclearance mandate.
It’s 2013, and conservatives are still using the term “state sovereignty” and taking the Ninth and Tenth Amendments seriously? The last I knew the “vaunted” principle was bludgeoned into the constitutional abattoir in 1865. Isn’t the bedrock principle “concurrent powers”? Who but a crackpot can talk about “state sovereignty”? And, as far as the law is concerned, is there any other principle more important than majority rule?