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Chisom v. Roemer


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501 U.S. 380 (1991), argued 12 Apr. 1991, decided 20 June 1991 by vote of 6 to 3; Stevens for the Court, Scalia, joined by Rehnquist and Kennedy, in dissent, Kennedy in dissent. Houston Lawyers’ Association v. Attorney General of Texas, 111 S.Ct. 2376 (1991), argued 22 Apr. 1991, decided 20 June 1991 by vote of 6 to 3; Stevens for the Court, Scalia, joined by Rehnquist and Kennedy, in dissent. The 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 amended section 2 to make clear that practices that result in the denial or abridgement of voting rights, even if not the product of discriminatory intent, are unlawful. The amendments extended section 2's protection beyond the Fifteenth Amendment that, under Mobile v. Bolden (1980), proscribes only intentional discrimination in voting. Chisom holds that section 2's “results test” applies to state judicial elections.

For purposes of electing two of Louisiana's seven Supreme Court justices, Orleans Parish, in which black voters constituted a majority, was combined into a multimember district with three parishes in which white voters constituted a majority. The five other justices were elected in single-member districts. Black Orleans Parish voters alleged that the multimember district denied their voting rights, but the question arose whether section 2 applies to judicial elections. The Supreme Court noted that section 2, prior to its amendment in 1982, was regarded as applying to judicial elections, and that Clark v. Roemer (1991) had held that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states to submit for approval changes in voting procedures with federal authorities, applies to judicial elections. The Court held that the use of the word “representatives” in section 2 did not reflect Congress's desire to limit section 2 to legislators and executive officials. Houston Lawyers’ Association held that section 2 applies to the election of trial judges.

Theodore Eisenberg

Subjects: Law.


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