TOM KEANE’S column repeats a grossly misleading aspect of the court’s decision: that the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance program was frozen in time (“The court was right,” Op-ed, June 30). This is simply not true.
It’s true that Congress last modified the formula to determine which jurisdictions would need federal approval for changes in their voting laws in 1975. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Keane both ignore a core fact about the law highlighted by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent: jurisdictions can “bail out” of the program if they comply with the law for just 10 years. Nearly 200 jurisdictions have successfully bailed out.
And courts can also “bail in” a jurisdiction for bad behavior, as happened to New Mexico and Arkansas. Congress was surely within its explicit constitutional powers to determine after exhaustive testimony and research that the Voting Rights Act was still necessary, that it was effective at protecting a core constitutional right, and that it was sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances.
Given the court’s acknowledgment that racial discrimination continues, their decision can only be viewed as the height of judicial activism and hypocrisy as the court substitutes its judgment for the near unanimous view of our elected officials in Congress.
Keane is wrong — and so is the court.