Zack Roth for Slate:
Some liberals are even starting to hope that a future Supreme Court—with a ninth member appointed by President Hillary Clinton—could overturn Shelby. It’s not impossible, but the idea isn’t on voting rights advocates’ immediate radar. Shelbyinvalidated the plank of the Voting Rights Act, known as Section 5, that had required areas with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get their election changes pre-approved by the federal government. With Section 5 no longer in effect, most experts think it would be difficult to fashion a case challenging Shelby, and that even if you could, restoring Section 5 by judicial fiat might be too aggressive for some of the court’s liberals.
More likely, for now, is that the court takes a different approach. Since Shelby, another plank of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2, has become even more crucial. Conservatives have long sought to limit Section 2’s scope, by arguing that it applies only to explicit and intentional racial discrimination, not actions that have a discriminatory effect. That’s a claim Texas made in defending its voter ID law. (So too did John Roberts, as a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department back in 1981, in a memo to his boss. And it’s one that, as the appeals court in that case noted, would make Section 2 all but useless, since few people writing laws these days announce their intention to racially discriminate. A Supreme Court opinion resoundingly affirming the idea that Section 2’s ban on racial bias in voting should be read broadly would strengthen the Voting Rights Act and make it much easier for lower courts to continue blocking laws that obstruct the right to vote. And unlike restoring Section 5, it would have an impact nationwide.