Ari Berman at the Nation: “It quickly became clear inside the courtroom that there are four votes to uphold Section 5 and four votes to strike it down. Justice Kennedy, as is so often the case, appears to be the swing vote, although he certainly leaned toward the conservatives.”
Bob Barnes for WaPo: “The Supreme Court’s conservative justices strongly suggested Wednesday that a key portion of the Voting Rights Act is no longer justified and the time had come for Southern states to be freed from special federal oversight.”
David Savage for LA Times: “Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose vote may be decisive, said the states deserved to be treated equally and that Congress did not have reason to continue a law that puts the South under a special scrutiny.”
Richard Wolf for USA Today: “It’s easy to go broke guessing on the outcome of any Supreme Court argument,” said Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, which solicited the challenge to the law. But he said the questions from Roberts and others “highlighted the justices’ skepticism about the differences in discrimination between the covered and non-covered jurisdictions. Those differences simply don’t exist any longer.”
Lyle Denniston for SCOTUSBlog: If Kennedy believes that there is no way to justify any longer that kind of oversight of nine states that have to do the most to obey the 1965 law, that law may well be doomed. But it also was Kennedy who left the impression that he might be willing to go along with a potential way to short-circuit the case of Shelby County v. Holder, and allow the law to survive for some time more.
Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic: It never shocks me when Denniston is correct. I certainly wouldn’t bet against him. But my sense is that there will be no last-minute vote switch this time. There will be no ideological compromise. The Court won’t exercise judicial restraint in the face of clear legislative intent. In other words, it doesn’t matter that the Senate renewed the law by a vote of 98-0 in 2006. It doesn’t matter that the House of Representatives passed it by an enormous margin as well or that President George W. Bush held a signing ceremony. This Court clearly has had it in for this law for years now, and will, within the next four months, gut its most effective provision.