by Kaelan Deese, Breaking News Reporter | | March 10, 2022
Attorney General Merrick Garland took aim at the Supreme Court‘s decisions on the Voting Rights Act in recent years, arguing a majority of the justices “has taken away some of our tools” to defend electoral opportunities for racial minorities across the country.
On his first anniversary since assuming office at the Justice Department, Garland, who was President Barack Obama’s ill-fated Supreme Court nominee in 2016, blasted the high court for its 2013 decision to remove a key section of the VRA in the case of Shelby County v. Holder.
“You are right that the Supreme Court has taken away some of our tools, the most important one being Section 5, which allowed us to pre-clear changes in practices and procedures of voting so we could not have to look at every case one by one to determine whether there was discrimination in those patterns in those practices and procedures,” Garland told NPR during a recent interview.
In the 2013 decision led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the high court left standing Section 2 of the VRA, which exists to limit practices that racially discriminate, particularly in the context of redistricting maps.
Garland said the “Supreme Court has narrowly restricted what I think is the correct view of Section 2 and which previously was the Supreme Court’s view of Section 2. So we have problems in both of those areas.”
The DOJ head’s remarks come nearly a month after the Supreme Court accepted Alabama’s legal rationale for opposing a second majority-black district in the state.
Alabama’s GOP had requested the Supreme Court to reinstate Republican-friendly congressional district maps after a lower court blocked it over apparent violations of the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 decision joined by Roberts, the justices halted the lower court order, preserving the redrawn map, which critics said diluted black votes.
Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the conservative majority’s decision, arguing it “would rewrite decades of this Court’s precedent” defending racial minorities and equal opportunities to participate in democratic elections.
But Garland expressed optimism in defending the fundamental voting rights established under the 1965 law passed by Congress, saying the high court’s decisions have not “prevented us from bringing cases against states that have instituted practices and procedures.”
“And we will continue to do that, and we will make those decisions based on our best reading of the law and the facts,” Garland added.