SCOTUS

SCOTUS strikes down key component of the Voting Rights Act

In a landmark decision Tuesday, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme court overturned a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down Section 4. That is the portion of the law that determines what parts of the country must have their voting laws precleared by the federal government.

Under the 1965 statute, nine states, including Texas, are required to get federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws. The law also applies to parts of seven other states, all of which have a history of infringing on minority voting rights. The statute was reauthorized in 2006.

The justices ruled that the government cannot enforce precelearance until Congress reevaluates voting data and updates its coverage formula. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, itself.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Several Texas laws hinge on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The state’s voter ID legislation and its redistricting maps are stalled in federal court, after the government denied approval to the voting law changes.

Attorney General Greg Abbott weighed in on Twitter almost immediately, saying:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the rare move of reading the dissenting opinion from the bench. Ginsburg said, “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ance is no longer needed.”

 

UT President Bill Powers ‘encouraged’ by SCOTUS ruling

Updated to add UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s statement

University of Texas president Bill Powers is applauding the Supreme Court’s decision to punt on the school’s use of race as an admissions factor. UT takes ethnicity into account as a part of its process to admit students who fall outside the system’s Top 10 percent rule. Powers said Monday the ruling will have no impact on the school’s current policy.

In a statement, Powers said:

“We’re encouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case.

 We will continue to defend the University’s admission policy on remand in the lower court under the strict standards that the Court first articulated in the Bakke case, reaffirmed in the Grutter case, and laid out again today. We believe the University’s policy fully satisfies those standards.

We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that provides the educational benefits of diversity on campus while respecting the rights of all students and acting within the constitutional framework established by the Court.

Today’s ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies.”

UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa also issued this statement:

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court believes there is compelling governmental interest in assuring diversity at our nation’s universities and encouraged that the Court upheld its ruling in the Grutter case, a landmark decision that gave public universities the ability to use race as one of multiple factors in determining admissions. 

“Today’s decision sends the case back to the lower court to take a closer look at UT Austin’s admissions policy to ensure it follows the standards laid out in Grutter. 

“We stand ready to assist in any way possible in defending UT Austin’s admissions policy on remand and will seek to maintain a policy that sustains a diverse student population and follows the guidelines the Court has provided us. We respect the Court’s decision and sincerely appreciate its careful deliberation on this important matter.”

SCOTUS sends UT affirmative action case back to lower court

The Supreme Court is declining to make a final ruling on race-based college admissions. In an opinion released today, the justices sent the case back to a lower court for another look, sidestepping the larger constitutional question.

At issue is whether the University of Texas can use race as one of the factors used in the admission process. Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. She claimed she was passed over in favor of less qualified students because she is white.

The 7-1 decision overturns a previous ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Fisher’s case. Justice Anthony Kennedy said Monday that a federal appeals court needs to further review the case.