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High Court Rules Narrowly In Voting Rights Case

DAVID GREENE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG: Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan, a leading voting rights expert, says, in essence, that the court blinked.

PAM KARLAN: What the court doesn't want is to have to strike down the Voting Rights Act, because the act is a kind of super-statute. It is an iconic moment of the civil rights movement.

TOTENBERG: By reinterpreting the Voting Rights law to allow many more jurisdictions to qualify for bail out, says Karlan, the court is giving the law far more flexibility than it had in the past, and that, she suggests, may be enough.

TOM GOLDSTEIN: I think that the marker laid down today by the Supreme Court is much more serious than that.

TOTENBERG: Supreme Court advocate Tom Goldstein teaches Supreme Court practice at both Stanford and Harvard Law School.

GOLDSTEIN: The clock is ticking, that the Supreme Court is going to give the Congress a chance to narrow the statute. But if it doesn't take up that invitation, then at least five justices - it seems clear - are ready to strike the statute down if Congress kind of puts them in that corner.

TOTENBERG: NYU Law Professor Richard Pildes, another leading voting rights expert, agrees.

RICHARD PILDES: Congress sort of threw a gauntlet down to the court when it reauthorized the statute without updating it in any way in 2006. And, in many ways, the court, in its own more gentle fashion, has kind of thrown the gauntlet back down to Congress and signaled pretty powerfully that unless Congress updates this statute, the next time around, the court is very likely to find it unconstitutional.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Nina Totenberg
Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.