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Supreme Court: Congress Has To Fix Broken Voting Rights Act

Publication Date: 
June 25, 2013
National Public Radio (NPR)
Nina Totenberg

Professor Pam Karlan spoke with NPR's Nina Totenberg about the "real sadness" being felt over the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder and how she sees "little hope Congress will be able to reconstruct the law."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the linchpin of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, freeing nine mostly Southern states from federal oversight.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court invalidated the formula — adopted most recently in 2006 — used to determine which states had to get federal approval for changes in their voting laws.


Notwithstanding all of that, there was a real sense of sadness in the civil rights community. Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan has litigated many a civil rights case under the Voting Rights Act, and she sees little hope that Congress will be able to reconstruct the law.

The Voting Rights Act, she says, "gave real meaning on the ground to the guarantees that we fought the Civil War over, and so that's how America was transformed — not just by the Constitution but by these congressional statutes that put the Constitution into action."