In an interview on WTOP-FM on Wednesday, the Comonwealth of Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell described the United States Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, as “potentially monumental,”expressing doubt that one of the major amendments to a Virginia law could be enforceable.
Passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, that law contains a major amendment that will require all voters to present a photo ID before casting their ballot.
An amendment to a second law, also passed this year, would allow the Commonwealth to access a federal database in order to verify the citizenship status of any registered voter.
The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Rebecca Green, professor of law at the College of William and Mary — Thomas Jefferson’s alma mater — noted that the “monumental” ruling could fundamentally change the behavior of the legislatures in the formerly-covered jurisdictions:
Now, minority voting rights advocates must wait until laws go into effect and do harm before challenging them — a process that can take years, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and often present insurmountable evidentiary hurdles.
Virginia is one of nine states with a history of racial discrimination so severely defiant that the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965, entailed unique treatment in the Southern states, in order to ensure an equal protection of the rights of all Americans under the 14th Amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts himself delivered the opinion of the Court:
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem.
Section 5 of the Act required States to obtain federal permission before enacting any law related to voting—a drastic departure from basic principles of federalism.
And §4 of the Act applied that requirement only to some States—an equally dramatic departure from the principle that all States enjoy equal sovereignty.
This was strong medicine, but Congress determined it was needed to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting, “an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution.”
Following the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, President Barack Obama clearly expressed his own disappointment and requested that Congress act to pass legislation “to ensure every American has equal access to the polls:”
Today’s decision invalidating one of [the Voting Rights Act’s] core provisions, upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy made clear that he would act promptly to try to mitigate the harm from this ruling, in order to restore these hard-won protections:
I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting.
Gov. McDonnell is the subject of an ongoing investigation relating to his having failed to disclose a $15,000 donation in the form of the payment of a catering bill for the governor’s daughter’s wedding as a contribution from Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
Mr. Cuccinnelli is also alledged to have failed to disclose political contirbutions from Mr. Williams, according to an April editorial in the Washington Post:
Then it turned out that Mr. Cuccinelli, the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, somehow suffered a multi-pronged amnesia attack that led him not to report more than $5,000 in contributions from Mr. Williams, owner of a firm that makes dietary supplements. Among other things, the money paid for Mr. Cuccinelli’s summer vacation last year; a catered Thanksgiving dinner in 2010 for the attorney general and his family; and a flight to New York.