Earlier this year, Josh Gerstein noted, "In a political system where even the most trivial issues trigger partisan rancor, the Voting Rights Act has stood for several decades as a rare point of bipartisan consensus. Until now."
That's true. On Capitol Hill, Republican hostility towards the Voting Rights Act has reached levels unseen in decades, and an even more serious threat to the law's future now looms at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Acting three days after the nation's minority voters showed that they have increased and still growing power in U.S. elections, the Supreme Court agreed on Friday to rule on a challenge to Congress's power to protect those groups' rights at the polls. The Court said it would hear claims that Congress went beyond its authority when it extended for another twenty-five years the nation's most important civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965 and renewed four times since then.
Specially at issue is the constitutionality of the law's Section 5, the most important provision, under which nine states and parts of seven others with a past history of racial bias in voting must get official clearance in Washington before they may put into effect any change in election laws or procedures, no matter how small.
Given the current makeup of the high court, it's not unreasonable to think there are five conservative votes for weakening the landmark civil rights law.
Keep in mind, the Voting Rights Act remains a critically important statute, and was used just this year to block odious voter-ID proposals in Texas and South Carolina.