Wisconsin Democrats Criticize Supreme Court Decision on Voting Rights Act

Jun 25, 2013

While it does not appear Tuesday's ruling affects Wisconsin, politicians here are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said Section 4 of the act cannot be enforced. It created a formula to identify cities and states where racial discrimination in voting takes place, and to "provide more stringent remedies where appropriate."

The Voting Rights Act puts a number of requirements on those states, including a mandate that they obtain federal approval before making changes to voting procedures.

Charles White of the NAACP spoke Tuesday outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, after the court ruled that a provision of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.
Credit Win McNamee/Getty Images

Milwaukee state Sen. Lena Taylor issued a release, calling the court decision “utterly disheartening.” She says the Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in areas that were “plagued with systemic and intentional discrimination.” She says the ruling shows that the fight for equal rights is far from over.

State Rep. Fred Kessler, also from Milwaukee, calls the ruling the worst the court has made affecting civil rights, since the decision in the late 1800s, which established the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Kessler says the Voting Rights Act decision has no impact on election law in Wisconsin. However, he says it is a “real setback” for civil rights.

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan also weighed in on the court’s ruling. He issued a statement, along with fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. They call the decision “an assault on our most fundamental rights as Americans.” The two say the ruling shows there’s a need for their Right to Vote Amendment, which they announced last month.

The Supreme Court did not strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Rather, justices determined Congress must update the formula it uses for determining which parts of the country must comply with the provision.