Elections lawyer critical of Supreme Court ruling on voting rights

TRENTON – A New Jersey lawyer well versed in elections law criticized the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday after it ruled that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act cannot be implemented because it’s reliant on data so old it doesn’t reflect the advancement of race relations that has taken place in the past few decades.

However, the highest court also said that Congress has the obligation to devise an updated formula to determine which voting districts require federal monitoring, a provision known as advance approval requirement.

But for one lawyer, Angelo Genova , the highest court’s decision is a step backwards.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is a setback for those who have, for two generations, found safe harbor in the Voting Rights Act,” Genova said in a statement.

Genova is co-founder and partner in the firm Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster and has argued election law cases in the courts and served as a commentator and author on election and ballot issues.

The 5-4 decision by the court, with the conservative justices voting to have Congress come up with a new formula and the more liberal justices against the change, means the federal government’s power to reject state laws regarding voting that it believes discriminate against minority voters has been limited.

The part of the act in question, Section 5, requires some seven states, mostly in the South, to have any election law changes be reviewed and approved by the federal government, in advance. That provision has existed for those particular states given their past history of discrimination against minority voters.

However, the conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court argued that the section, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2006, is predicated on old data that isn’t reflective of the tremendous improvements in rooting out discrimination.

“Unfortunately, the same unique circumstances of disenfranchisement which prompted the adoption of the VRA are still present in the form of voter ID Laws, the cutting back of early-voting opportunities and the elimination of same-day voter registration,” Genova said. 

“The protections afforded by the VRA are still required, in my view, and remain as necessary today as they were in 1965.  Regrettably, a majority of the Supreme Court disagrees.”

Democratic Newark Mayor and U.S. Senate Candidate Cory Booker said it’s time for Congress to take action.

“As we’ve seen on several recent occasions, most notably in the Texas redistricting plan that federal courts last year described as intentionally discriminatory, the threat to voting rights in America remains very real,” he said.

“The Voting Rights Act has been instrumental in the fight against violations of one of our most precious constitutional rights, and Congress must now act decisively to put in place updated, robust protections in accordance with this morning’s Supreme Court decision.”

Elections lawyer critical of Supreme Court ruling on voting rights