Tuesday, the Supreme Court effectively struck down the requirement that certain states and counties, including all governments in Georgia, “pre-clear” all election changes with the U.S. Justice Department (Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act). The court found that those places were still being singled out on the basis of a 40-year old formula (Section 4 of the act) that is no longer valid.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta
“Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years.
“These men never stood in unmovable lines. They were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process. They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs. No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote. They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights.”
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
“Every state in the nation ought to have their voting record analyzed. I’m very proud of the record that Georgia has. We have a greater minority population voting today than ever before, and that’s the way it ought to be. But Georgia and the other 15 states shouldn’t be singled out.”
Voting rights attorney Emmet Bondurant
“(Southern states) did secede from the union. They did fight a battle to preserve slavery. They did preserve segregation in schools. They did have literacy tests and white primaries and other things to keep blacks from voting that other states didn’t have. It’s hardly something you could say there’s no rational basis for.”
House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta
“I have hanging in my House leadership office the pictorial of the 1963-64 state House in which my grandfather served and the pictorial of today’s state House. The one from my grandfather’s era is all white and all male – and, I might add, all Democrat. Needless to say, the modern pictorial looks far different and better.
“Citizens who believe they are discriminated against still retain the right to go to court to seek redress (by filing a lawsuit) against alleged wrongs under Section 2 of the VRA, but Georgia and its people will no longer be tainted with the presumption of guilt on this issue. That is how it should be in America.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
“The Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder is stunningly disappointing and ignores the clear intent of the United States Congress.
“There is no other way to view this other than as a blow to the rule of law that every citizen with the right to vote shall have his or her vote counted.”
Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth
“The Voting Rights Act remains intact. It remains unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race anywhere in the country.
“Regarding Section 5 pre-clearance, it is wrong to discriminate against parts of the country because of decisions made decades ago by individuals who are no longer in office or even alive. If pre-clearance is still needed, it should apply to all of America and not just a handful of southern states and western counties.
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta
“Congress should create a new formula to recognize the rising new American electorate, which will have challenges in states other than those covered by Section 4. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Congress will address the need to expand and refine the formula until after the 2014 election cycle.”
Gov. Nathan Deal
“I think Congress will have the very difficult task of trying to revisit the issue and pass something that will pass muster with the U.S. Supreme Court. For all intents and purposes, it may be that Section 5 is eliminated.
“This just means Georgia will be treated like all those other states that weren’t under the Voting Rights Act, and if you want to look at abuses, there were abuses in other states that were not subject to Section 5 but unfortunately they didn’t get as much play as it would have if it happened in the South.”
State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta
“The opinion leaves it unclear as to whether Section 5 now has national application or none.
“As of today nobody knows if the Voting Rights Act applies in Georgia. I’m saying it’s possible it applies to every single jurisdiction in the country. How our Legislature acts is a question. Nobody can act with certainty about what this decision means.”
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge
“I’m not sure Congress can agree on what day of the week it is, much less come up with a formula that would replace the antiquated formula that was in place, and I don’t think they should.
“I don’t right now (whether the General Assembly will undertake any changes to Georgia’s election procedures). It’s too early to say. We take these things up as they’re introduced.”
Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves
“I’m very disappointed with today’s Supreme Court ruling. I think it’s a wake-up call to Democrats to mobilize and strengthen our numbers in Congress to have this part of the law strengthened so that minority representation is assured and voting rights for minorities are protected.”
State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon
“At first blush, this looks like this is a decision we’re very happy with. It means we don’t need to go through the tedious task of pre-clearance for every single small change with elections in this state.
“If pre-clearance is necessary to protect minority voting rights, it should be available to minorities everywhere. We should not discriminate against minorities based on where they live in America.”
Staff writers David Wickert, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy contributed to this report.