I just don't understand where Roberts, Scalia & Co. have any business even looking at this law. Can anyone explain this to me?
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is very simple and straightforward:
SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Okay, Congress has this power to enforce this Amendment with 'appropriate legislation.' What are the boundaries of 'appropriateness'? If it hasn't exceeded them by passing the Voting Rights Act, then the Supreme Court should sit down and shut up.
Quite a few other Constitutional amendments have a section with essentially the same language as Section 2, specifically the 13th, 14th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th Amendments, and the defunct 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
So, how big a grant of authority to Congress is the power to enforce a Constitutional amendment with appropriate legislation?
The Supreme Court, discussing the identical section of the 14th Amendment in Ex Parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339 (1879) said at 345-346 (emphasis mine):
It is not said the judicial power of the general government shall extend to enforcing the prohibitions and to protecting the rights and immunities guaranteed. It is not said that a branch of the government shall be authorized to declare void any action of a State in violation of the prohibitions. It is the power of Congress which has been enlarged, Congress is authorized to enforce the prohibitions by appropriate legislation. Some legislation is contemplated to make the amendments fully effective. Whatever legislation is appropriate, that is, adapted to carry out the objects the amendments have in view, whatever tends to enforce submission to the prohibitions they contain, and to secure to all persons the enjoyment of perfect equality of civil rights and the equal protection of the laws against State denial or invasion, if not prohibited, is brought within the domain of congressional power.
"Whatever legislation is...adapted to carry out the objects the amendments have in view...is brought within the domain of congressional power."
That seems pretty clear to me.
How can the Court possibly say the Voting Rights Act fails that test? As best as I can tell, it is not for them to judge whether the VRA enforces the Fifteenth Amendment in a way they like. It is not for them to judge whether the VRA enforces the Fifteenth Amendment in a way that they regard as effective. It is not even for them to judge whether the VRA's enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment is superfluous at this point in time. It is only for them to judge whether the VRA is "adapted to carry out the objects the amendments have in view." Which it obviously is.
The Supreme Court should sit down and shut up before they gut all seven Constitutional amendments that include this language.