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zombie voting rights act

July 4, 2013

HuffPo: “The Walking Dead Supreme Court” by Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Assistant Professor of Law, Stetson University:

zombie torres-spelliscy

What does the Roberts Supreme Court have to do with “The Walking Dead”? Zombies.

Since 2006, Chief Justice John Roberts and his trusty sidekick, Justice Sam Alito, have been busy making zombies of good election laws — removing just enough that they are rendered brain dead, and yet leaving just enough intact that the Supreme Court can claim it did no real harm because technically the law is still alive.

First Justice Roberts made a zombie of the federal campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold in a little noticed case called Wisconsin Right to Life II (WRTL II) in 2007.

Now he has made a zombie of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in the Shelby Co. v. Holder case by finding that Section 4’s coverage formula is unconstitutional in light of current circumstances. This renders Section 5 preclearance a nullity. Section 5 is the brain that made the Voting Rights Act a functioning protector of minority voters across the land.


These zombies created by the Supreme Court are dangerous for our democracy.

Then Professor Torres-Spelliscy has one more paragraph in which she is happy at least,

the Court didn’t completely kill the VRA.

So, maybe zombies aren’t the worst case scenario?

Adam Liptak at NYTimes also offers similar analysis about the Voting Rights Act writing in “Roberts Pulls Supreme Court to the Right Step by Step“:

Chief Justice Roberts may have a different agenda, and his methodical assault on the Voting Rights Act is perhaps the most vivid illustration of his approach. The decision issued on Tuesday nominally returned the fate of the law to Congress, but the chances that it will act are remote. As a practical matter, the key provision of the law is very likely dead.

And it’s worth noting the extensiveness of that ‘dead law’ metaphor in legal rhetoric. Just this past week Wendy Davis killed an abortion bill in Texas with a filibuster and also of course SCOTUS also ruled that DOMA is dead. But consider also the possibility that all laws are already zombies, waiting for activists to stand up and push back; and that voting is still among the most important ways to do that.


From → Academics

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