Voting Rights Act could be challenged by Supreme Court but Congress has final say to protect voting rights
Democracy, elections, ballots, voter and voting
Congress Voting Rights Act Power Is In Constitution, Agreement From Gingrich To Ginsberg, Report Robert Weiner And Richard Mann
National issues strategist Robert Weiner, a former White House spokesman and senior staff for three House Committee Chairmen, and senior policy analyst Richard Mann are saying that the power of Congress to enact and extend the Voting Rights Act is explicitly in the Constitution. In an article in the Michigan Chronicle today, they report that there is widespread agreement on the congressional constitutional power over the Act from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg to congressional leaders with jurisdiction, according to interviews they conducted. Weiner and Mann directly challenge the accuracy of a constitutional omission by Justice Scalia, who stated that “This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress,” despite the Constitution’s specific citation of the congressional power, and argue that if the Court cuts down the Voting Rights Act, Congress should reenact it. The Michigan Chronicle has six times in the last twelve years been named the nation’s best African American newspaper by the National Newspaper Association.
Weiner and Mann explain, “In the oral debate over cutting down the power of the Voting Rights Act – the law designed to assure enforcement of no discrimination against minorities’ right to vote – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated last month, ‘This is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress.’ He called the bill, ‘perpetuation of racial entitlement.’ He added, ‘It is very difficult to get out … through the normal political process.'” The Court could make a decision as early as June, Weiner and Mann state.
They assert that “the Justice apparently missed that the 15th Amendment to the Constitution states, ‘The right of citizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.'” They point out that “the extremely significant next sentence of the 15th Amendment states, ‘The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.'”
Weiner and Mann report that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently asked if Congress has the power to enact and amend the Voting Rights Act. She responded, “Yes, it’s there in the 14th and 15th Amendments.” To assure she meant the directness of her answer, she was asked if people are just wrong to say Congress does not have the power. She repeated, “It’s in the 14th and 15th Amendments.”
Weiner asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich last week if he still believes the Constitution gives Congress the power, since he had presided over and voted for extensions of the Voting Rights Act, and he said “Yes.” Gingrich asked what Scalia’s reasoning was to question it, and “we told him about Justice Scalia’s assertion that Congress was politically pandering.” They report that “Gingrich, unfazed, responded, ‘All the Founding Fathers won elections and understood that – they all were elected.'” Weiner and Mann add, “One may often disagree with Gingrich’s policies and politics, but as a congressional and constitutional historian, he is informed.”
Weiner and Mann contend, “It’s not as though discrimination is dead and we no longer need the Voting Rights Act. In our time, in the 2012 election, thirty-seven states attempted voter suppression of minorities by targeted ID requirements and reduced hours to vote. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is Congress’s way to stop the undemocratic shenanigans denying minorities the vote.”
They add, “The Voting Rights Act and its extensions have been among the most bipartisan and overwhelmingly supported votes in American history, including the 25-year renewal in 2006 by 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.”
“Last month, the leaders of the Judiciary Committee that reported out the 2006 bill–Democrat John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Republican James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)–issued a unique joint statement and filed a bipartisan amicus to the Court saying the Voting Rights Act with its Section Five ‘protects our most fundamental right—the right to vote. This law has empowered minorities to participate in the election process, but the threat of discrimination is not yet extinct.'” The Judiciary Committee had taken 12,000 pages of testimony.
Weiner and Mann say the Court still might rule in favor of the Act -–”There is a window: Perhaps Scalia’s earlier comment that ‘this Court doesn’t like to get involved in racial questions such as this one… that can be left to Congress’ will be his better side and will be the Court’s attitude. The 15th Amendment says ‘Congress shall have the power.'”
However, they say Congress can and should counteract the Court if it strikes down the Act: “If the Supreme Court knocks the law down or diminishes it, this should be one of those rare circumstances where the Congress effectively reverses the Supreme Court and reenacts the bill, perhaps changing a word or two so that it can say there is a difference.”
They conclude with an exhortation to all citizens to read the Constitution: “Some weeks ago we went out and bought a little pamphlet for a couple of dollars with the text of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The whole thing is about 1/20th a normal paperback novel’s length. You can read and circle phrases in it in an hour or two. There is much talk these days about the Constitution. Some people try to make it seem complicated. That’s just a way of keeping we the people from our power. There is also enormous biased usage of the wording. We want an informed electorate, and everyone should read it and even carry the small pamphlet around.”
“And that includes the Justices themselves.”
Robert Weiner is a former White House spokesman, communications director for committees headed by Representatives Conyers, Rangel, and Pepper, aide to Senator Kennedy and Cong. Koch, and a congressional committee chief of staff. Richard Mann is senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates, Solutions for Change, and a journalism master’s degree graduate of Roosevelt University.
PHOTOS if desired:
Contact: Bob Weiner/Richard Mann 301-283-0821, cell 202-306-1200 firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates; Solutions for Change