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US Supreme Court strikes down key section of Voting Rights Act

By Michael Thomas     Jun 25, 2013 in Politics
The US Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 5-4 decision Tuesday. The section requires several US districts to obtain federal approval before making changes to voting legislation.
The New York Times reports that the country's highest court ruled to strike down Section 4 because Congress did not adequately explain why nine states, mainly in the south, needed federal oversight.
The Washington Post has put together a map showing affected areas. Whole states affected include Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia, among others. Small pockets in other states like California, Florida and South Dakota will also no longer be subjected to federal oversight.
The ruling doesn't mean that the federal government won't have any further say in voting legislation, however. BBC reports that the US government will have to come up with an updated formula that will decide which districts need monitoring.
"Congress did not use the record it compiled to shape a coverage formula grounded in current conditions," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court's opinion. "It instead re-enacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day."
The legislation was a landmark victory of the civil rights era. Section 4 outlined which areas of the country needed federal approval to make voting changes, while Section 5 outlines the need for pre-clearance from the federal government. Section 5 was initially set to expire after five years, but Congress extended it several times since then, most recently in 2006 for 25 years.
Section 5 is now without significance unless the government comes up with a new formula. Critics of Section 5 have called the need for pre-clearance a badge of shame for districts subject to the law.
Civil right activists, however, point out that Section 4 and 5 were key in the 2012 US elections. They blocked proposed voting-system changes like voter identification requirements and cutbacks to early voting.
Politico reports that the Supreme Court vote was sharply divided among ideological lines. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the four dissenting judges, said the judges agreed that racial discrimination still exists, and that Congress had taken "extraordinary measures to meet the problem."
“Beyond those two points, the court divides sharply,” she said.
Politico also points out that the Voting Rights Act isn't entirely nullified. Both citizens and the Justice Department can sue under Section 2 to block any practices that might prevent minority voters from voting or dilute voters' political power.
More about United States, Scotus, US Supreme Court, Voting Rights Act, Voting
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