During live coverage, minutes after the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, a hyperbolic Terry Moran on ABC inaccurately spun the whole law as being invalidated. It was left to former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos to correct his colleague.
Moran insisted, "Right now there is no voting rights act operative in the United States." Actually, the Court struck down section four of act, saying that the formula for which state and federal localities decide pre-clearance for their voting laws must be rewritten. Trying to clarify Moran's remarks, Stephanopoulos summarized, "They did not strike down the heart of the act, section five of the Voting Rights Act. And they didn't find the entire law unconstitutional." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Regarding the Voting Rights Act itself, Moran underlined, "Even conservatives on this court acknowledged its success in transforming...democracy of this country....Even the conservatives acknowledged its success."
The Supreme Court left it to Congress to rewrite section four. This worried Moran: "You and everybody who looks at that building, the Capitol across the street from here, knows how dysfunctional that place is, whether or not we'll get a new voting rights act is anybody's guess."
A partial transcript of the June 25 segment, which aired at 10:35am ET, is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The Supreme Court just made a major decision about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That was the bill that required states mostly in the south to submit their election plans to the federal government, to the Justice Department for review, a major component of that law has been struck down, section four of that law. She case was Shelby County vs. Eric Holder. We're going to bring in our Supreme Court correspondent Terry Moran to explain the details. Terry?
TERRY MORAN: George, as you know, it's impossible to overstate the importance of the Voting Rights Act. It's one of the most important laws ever passed by Congress, even conservatives on this court acknowledged its success in transforming the voting– the democracy of this country. What the court did today is say it's outdated, that the formula for deciding which states, which counties, which localities, need to ask permission of the federal government before they change their election laws, that formula is outdated, that it's from the era of Bull Connor and police dogs and fire hoses, and we live in a new era. Congress has to go back, Republicans and Democrats cooperating, come up with an assessment of today's problems on voting rights and rewrite the act.
It is a huge, huge decision. As chief justice Roberts writing for the five conservative-- five member conservative majority says, the 15th Amendment, that is the post Civil War amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. "Commands that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race," he says. He goes on, "The amendment is not designed to punish for the past, its purpose is to ensure a better future." So what he's saying is that this great law, which, as I said, even the conservatives acknowledged its success, transformed American democracy needs updating. Now, you and everybody who looks at that building, the Capitol across the street from here, knows how dysfunctional that place is. Whether or not we'll get a new voting rights act is anybody's guess. Right now, there is no voting rights act operative in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And this is a pretty straight conservative liberal split on the court?
MORAN: Yes, it is. It is five to four. The conservatives, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito holding that the Voting Rights Act is outdated, needs to be updated, and therefore, there is no use of this tool which has changed American democracy until Congress passes it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Until Congress passes the law. But just one final point, then I want to bring in Jonathan Karl. They did not strike down the heart of the act, section five of the Voting Rights Act. And they didn't find the entire law unconstitutional.
MORAN: That's right. The heart of this law, is the extraordinary exercise of federal power, which the Congress in 1965 said was necessary to put whole states under the supervision of the Justice Department and the federal courts, states that demonstrated vicious efforts to prevent black people from voting, they put those whole states and other localities under the supervision of the Justice Department. The question that many of those states have raised is can they still do that? The court did not answer that question. They said what Congress must do now is update the act for today's problems.