More On Section Five: Congress On The Clock

Conventional wisdom about the ramifications of this morning's Supreme Court decision on the voting rights act has swung from relief to concern. The Court upheld the statute, but they seem to have also, laid the pretext for the statute's demise, and soon, according to astute Court watcher and litigator Tom Goldstein:


Though the Supreme Court by a wide margin today formally declined to resolve a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, the reality is far different.  The decision unambiguously served notice that the Justices are prepared to invalidate the statute as it stands.  Congress is now effectively on the clock:  it has the period between now and the date that it decides a follow-on challenge by a covered jurisdiction that is not permitted to "bail out" of the statutory scheme to amend Section 5.  If the statute remains the same by the time the next case arrives, the Court will invalidate the statute.

As Goldstein notes, it's up to Congress to revise -- i.e., narrow -- the statute to account for the evolution in race relations and government election processes -- or else the Court will do it for them.