A key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act survives a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court and only Justice Clarence Thomas—the court's lone black justice—found the provision unconstitutional.
The 8-1 decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder (pdf) declined to overturn Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires federal approval for any changes in election laws or redistricting decisions in nine states, mostly in the South.
The Washington Post notes during oral arguments, the court's conservative majority "was openly critical of the requirements" but the Court avoided the constitutional issue. "Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today," Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court.
In his dissent, Thomas went further and "seemed to argue" the Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary "because the explicit racial segregation of the Jim Crow era is gone", notes The Daily Voice.
''The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains,'' Thomas wrote. He admitted that in 1965, "Congress had every reason to conclude that States with a history of disenfranchising voters based on race would continue to do all they could to evade the constitutional ban on voting discrimination." But, Thomas added, "The extensive pattern of discrimination that led the Court to previously uphold Section 5 . . . no longer exists...And the days of 'grandfather clauses, property qualifications, 'good character' tests, and the requirement that registrants 'understand' or 'interpret' certain matter,' are gone."
What did Malcolm X say? There are house slaves and there are field slaves ...