Knowing Your Government: Supreme Court Strikes Voting Rights Law

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    supreme-justicesIn a 5-4 vote, justices limited the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Congress passed during the height of America’s volatile civil rights movement.

    The court struck down a part of the law that uses a federal formula to determine which states and counties must undergo U.S. oversight of their voting procedures to prevent voter discrimination.

    Read: Knowing Your Government: Congress Introduces Responsible Fatherhood Bill

    Key details of the ruling include:

    • Section 4, the part of the law that was struck down, is the coverage formula the federal government uses to determine which states and counties are subject to continued oversight. Roberts said that formula from 1972 was outdated and unworkable.

    • Section 5 of the law effectively cannot be enforced, because it relies heavily on the coverage formula. Civil rights groups say Section 5 has been an important tool to protect minority voters from local governments that would set unfair, shifting barriers to the polls. Without it, they warn, the very power and effect of the entire Voting Rights Act would crumble. But opponents of the provision counter it should not be enforced in areas where it can be argued that racial discrimination no longer exists.

    • Under Section 5, any changes in voting laws and procedures in those covered states — including much of the South — had to be “precleared” with Washington. Such changes could have included something as simple as moving a polling place temporarily across the street.

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