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In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has thrown out Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the historic law first passed in the days after 1965’s Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.

The ruling voids the formula to determine which jurisdictions require “pre-clearance” from the federal government before they make any changes to their voting laws, effectively freeing officials to alter voting procedures at will until Congress authorizes a new formula.

The Voting Rights Act has been renewed by Congress several times. The last was in 2006, when a Republican House voted 390-33 and a Republican Senate voted 98-0 to send a renewal that authorized the law for 25 years to President George W. Bush for his signature. Despite Congress deciding that the Section 4 formula was still relevant seven years ago, conservatives on the Court disagreed.

“In assessing the ‘current need’ for a pre-clearance system treating States differently from one another today, history since 1965 cannot be ignored,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority decision for Shelby County v. Holder. After suggesting that the current formula is based on “40-year-old data,” he included a chart that demonstrated the success of the law when it comes to increasing registration among African-Americans.

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However, just last year, courts based several decisions to block laws designed to suppress the minority vote in the 2012 general election on Section 5, which now holds no significance without Section 4. Despite the court’s intervention, voters in Florida had to wait as many as nine hours in line to vote.

Roberts wrote that Congress “may draft another formula based on current conditions,” which is highly unlikely given current partisan gridlock.

The Nation’s Ari Berman explains that the existing formula is extremely effective in determining jurisdictions that should require “pre-clearance”:

Six of the nine states fully covered by Section 5, all in the South, passed new voting restrictions after the 2010 election. “Section 5,” write law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer, “is remarkably well tailored to the geography of anti-black prejudice.” Of the ten states where anti-black stereotypes are most common, based on data from the National Annenberg Election Survey, six in the South are subject to Section 5. Racially polarized voting and “explicit anti-black attitudes,” according to an AP survey, have increased since 2008. Arkansas and Virginia have passed strict new voter-ID laws this year, while North Carolina is considering a slew of draconian restrictions.


The states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia are all covered under the current formula. It also covers some counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and local jurisdictions in Michigan, all areas that have demonstrated historic discrimination against African-Americans, American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaska Natives or Latinos.

The case brought by Shelby County was backed by “leading operatives and funders in the conservative movement along with Republican attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.”

“Overturning Section 5 is in many respects the most important battle in the GOP’s war on voting,” according to Berman.

Think Progress‘ Josh Israel and Aviva Shen predict that the immediate impact of the demise of Section 4 will lead to stricter voter ID laws, racially gerrymandered legislative maps and blocking of grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts.

“All told, between 1982 and 2006, DOJ objections blocked over 700 voting changes based on a determination that the changes were discriminatory,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her passionate dissent that explicated several instances where “pre-clearance” had prevented discriminatory laws from taking effect.

“That determination of the body empowered to enforce the Civil War Amendments ‘by appropriate legislation’ merits this Court’s utmost respect,” Ginsburg summarized. “In my judgment, the Court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’ decision.”

“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today,” President Obama said in a statement. “For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.”

After calling the Voting Rights Act “the cornerstone of the American civil rights movement,” Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday, “We’re going to work with Congress in this effort and the administration is going to do everything in our power to make sure that fair and equal voting processes are maintained.”

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

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