Make That The Big One: The Supreme Court on Tuesday tackled another one of the Big Three issues in its docket – the Voting Rights Act. The nation’s highest court issued a fairly complex decision that weakened the act by asking Congress to update certain provisions, something that would appear unlikely to happen anytime soon given the current state of play in Washington. The court will be back at it tomorrow at 10 a.m., when it's expected to issue its long-awaited rulings on Prop 8 and DOMA. [Explainer: How Does SCOTUS Schedule Its Decisions?]
The Basics From the Voting-Rights Ruling: Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday freed states from special federal oversight under the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, saying the data Congress used to identify the states covered by it was outdated and unfair. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other conservative members of the court in the majority. The court did not strike down a provision allowing special federal oversight but said Congress must come up with a new formula based on current data to identify which states should be covered."
The Reality: SCOTUSBlog: "In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts ... the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required. But much more importantly, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it.
What the Dissent Said: CBS News: "[Justice] Ginsburg argued in her dissent that the court should have deferred to Congress on the validity of the Voting Rights Act. 'When confronting the most constitutionally invidious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system, Congress' power to act is at its height,' she wrote. The court could have made a much broader ruling by striking down Section 5, which dictates that those states must get pre-clearance. However, the court decided that the Justice Department still has a role in overseeing voting laws—if Congress is willing to rewrite Section 4."
John Roberts’ Lame Ruling: Eric Posner in Slate: "Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, the Voting Rights Act case, is a pretty lame piece of work. … Roberts says that the singling out of Old South states, for what’s called 'preclearance' by DoJ, makes little sense now that blacks are as likely to register to vote as whites in those states, or nearly so. But Congress passes hundreds of statutes that are based on weak evidence, and courts routinely uphold them. Roberts doesn’t even try to argue that the costs imposed on states by the preclearance part of the Voting Rights Act exceed the benefits for people who would otherwise be deprived of the vote, which is what would be minimally necessary to show that the law does not advance the public good.”
More Slate Coverage on Today's Big Decision:
- Roller: SCOTUS' Voting Rights Act Ruling Won't Just Affect Southern Politics
- Weigel: Roberts Wants Congress to Rewrite the Voting Rights Act. Why Would It?
- Bazelon: Roberts’ stealthy plan to destroy the Voting Rights Act
- Gerken: Saying Goodbye to the Crown Jewel of the Civil Rights Movement
- The Slatest: Obama “Deeply Disappointed” With Voting-Rights Ruling
It’s Tuesday. Welcome to The Slatest PM, where we’re rounding up the day’s top stories and trying to stay cool in the sweltering heat. Follow me, your afternoon news guide, on Twitter at @s_brodez and the whole team at @slatest.
Obama Rolls Out Climate Plan: Politico: "President Barack Obama laid out his plan Tuesday to combat climate change, instructing his administration to move forward with rules on power plants and energy efficiency, and to approve the Keystone XL pipeline only if the move will not result in a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions. Obama looked toward the legacy of his presidency and his generation as he encouraged action, but stressed that developing more clean energy solutions will also help the economy, even as opponents say it will hurt economic growth."
Snowden Definitely at Moscow Airport: CBS News: "Russian President Vladimir Putin gave strong signals that he rejected U.S. pleas to send National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to America on Tuesday, saying Snowden is free to travel wherever he wants and insisting that Russian security agencies haven't contacted him. Snowden is in the transit zone of a Moscow airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, Putin said, meaning he is not technically in Russia."
Zimmerman Update: ABC News: "Jurors in the George Zimmerman murder trial were shown photos today of Trayvon Martin's body lying in the grass shortly after he was killed, spurring his father Tracy Martin to walk out of court, visibly shaken, Martin's mother, who remained and looked away as the photos were shown, walked out shortly after. The startling photos were shown on the second day of testimony in Zimmerman's trial. Zimmerman, 29, is accused of second degree murder for shooting Martin, who was 17, on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman claims he shot him in self defense. The pictures appeared on a large screen as Sgt. Anthony Raimondo of the Sanford, Fla., police department told the court how he tried to save the teenager's life. The sergeant said he tried to revive Martin, but could hear bubbling sounds coming out of Martin's chest as he attempted CPR."
Iraq Violence Continues: New York Times: "At least 32 people were killed in Iraqi towns and cities on Tuesday, security sources said, the latest flare of violence in a country where sectarian attacks have become a frequent occurrence… The day’s violence followed a dozen bombings in and around Baghdad and north of the city on Monday, in which at least 41 people were killed and 125 wounded.... More than 2,000 people have been killed in the violence in Iraq since April."
The End of the Nook: Wall Street Journal: Barnes & Noble Inc. is retreating from the intensely competitive tablet wars, after sustaining heavy losses. The bookseller reported Tuesday that losses at its Nook digital business blew out in the fourth quarter, easily wiping out reduced profits generated at its bookstores. As a result Barnes & Noble said it would stop manufacturing its own color tablets, instead going with co-branded devices made by third-party manufacturers. Barnes & Noble will continue to design and make its own black-and-white Nook e-readers. But the decision to look elsewhere for its color tablets marks the end of its efforts to compete on the tablet front with much deeper-pocketed technology companies as Apple Inc., Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Samsung Electronics Co."
More Quick Hits From Slate—
- Double X: No, We Are Not All Like Paula Deen
- MoneyBox: The Corporate States of America
- XX Factor: Pick-Up Culture: Always Bad, Sometimes Bad, or Kind of OK?
- Atlas Obscura: Concrete Dome Hides Nuclear Crater
- FutureTense: Most Cities Don’t Need Innovation Offices
- MoneyBox: Can Austin Stay Weird as it Grows?
That’s all for today. See you back here for another big day at the Supreme Court. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or forward on the newsletter and let them decide for themselves.
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