Jewish Groups Blast Top Court Over Decision on Voting Rights Act

Say Supremes Gut Commitment to Civil Rights

Rock the Vote: Demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court after the justices struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act.
getty images
Rock the Vote: Demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court after the justices struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act.

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The Supreme Court’s June 25 decision striking down key elements of a longstanding law protecting minority voting rights touched a chord with the Jewish community which has strongly supported the law although its direct impact on Jewish voters has been marginal.

Jewish organizations decried the court’s 5-to-4 ruling, which deemed part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. 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.

“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.”

The Religious Action Center was among several Jewish groups that joined a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights in support of maintaining all provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Symbolically, a plaque mounted on the wall of the RAC’s headquarters in Washington notes that the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were written in the building, a reflection of the close cooperation between the Jewish community and the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

The American Jewish Committee, which also joined the amicus brief in favor of VRA, condemned the decision. Marc Stern, the group’s general counsel, said that while the ruling only struck down certain parts of the landmark civil rights law, it “will harm the ability of all citizens, of whatever race, to vote.”

The court, which issued its decision in response to a case brought by Shelby County, Alabama against the Justice Department, ruled that the criteria for subordinating states to the Voting Rights Act were based on outdated information.

“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.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.