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Jewish Groups Respond Voting Rights Act Decision

The chorus seems discontented

Romy Zipken
June 26, 2013

Jewish groups are inflamed by the June 25 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court stating that a key provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 cannot be enforced, reports Haaretz.

The Supreme Court ruling gutted the law’s requirement that certain states and districts with a previous history of discrimination receive pre-clearance from the federal government before making any changes to election procedures or voting laws.

The decision was made because the 40-year-old data that the law is based off of was deemed too old to “reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society,” reports the Daily Caller.

Many Jewish leaders believe that striking down this portion of the law will make it more difficult for minority groups to vote, a point that opponents of the law contested because of President Obama’s election, which apparently means that there is no longer a problem for various races to get to the voting booths.

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The ruling, he argued, “effectively overturns the nation’s longstanding commitment to protecting the voting rights of all citizens.” [Haaretz]

The law served nine states, mostly in the south, but also applied to counties in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan. But the majority opinion stated that these areas aren’t problematic today:

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion, “and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” [Haaretz]

There’s still room in the law for changes to be made by Congress to determine individual areas that need help from that portion of the Voting Rights Act, though it might be unlikely:

But political analysts were unanimous in deeming such a move as highly unlikely in the current political climate.

The three Jewish justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, were all in the minority opinion of the vote. Other Jewish groups who voiced dissent to the ruling were the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Romy Zipken is a writer and editor at Jewcy. Her Twitter feed is @RomyZipken.