The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which dealt with the preclearance requirement as reported by Bloomberg. Preclearance was a formula Congress used to determine which states must receive approval prior to changing their election rules. Now that the requirement has been declared unconstitutional, states can implement controversial changes like voter ID laws which had previously been put on hold by the Justice Department.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that "our country has changed, 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."
In 2006, Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act extending it another 25 years. The Senate voted 98-0 and the House voted 390-33 in favor of the law. Republican President George W. Bush subsequently signed the measure into law. More than 2,400 state and local voting changes were stopped by the Justice Department between 1982-2006 using the preclearance provision.
"After exhaustive evidence-gathering and deliberative process, Congress reauthorized the VRA, including the coverage provision, with overwhelming bipartisan support," Justice Ginsburg stated reading from her dissent. "In my judgment, the court errs egregiously by overriding Congress's decision."
Until Congress can create a new formula to determine which jurisdictions are covered under the law, minorities are expected to be increasingly marginalized with respect to voter rights. All southern states currently affected have legislatures with Republican majorities and many had already attempted to pass (and had blocked) voter ID laws which are commonly perceived as anti-minority.
In a statement, chief counsel for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, Jon Greenbaum said, "The Supreme Court has effectively gutted one of the nation's most important and effective civil rights laws."
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