The Supreme Court struck down the key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 on Tuesday, as Chief Justice John Roberts explained in the 5-4 majority opinion that the law’s conditions do not apply today.
The Alabama county involved in the case, Shelby, questioned Section 5 of the legislation. The Supreme Court struck down Section 4, which contains the formula that determines which states with a history of racial discrimination to get clearance from the Justice Department before enacting any voting laws.
The Voting Rights Act was most recently renewed in 2006, when it passed through Congress with near-unanimous support. It was not set to expire until 2031.
It has remained a factor throughout the last two elections. Indeed, since 2005, seven of the nine statesincluded in the law — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia — have passed laws involving voter identification or other methods that make voting more difficult.
There were a few times the Voting Rights Act applied in the 2012 election between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney:
- A federal court struck down a voter ID law in Texas last August after the Justice Department blocked it, writing that it would have a “retrogressive effect” on the ability of minority voters to cast ballots. The court also said that the “implicit costs” of getting proper ID “will fall most heavily on the poor.”
- The Justice Department blocked a voter ID law in South Carolina. It was later approved by a court after an agreement that lessened its effects on minority voters. The Justice Department praised the decision, saying it welcomed “the court’s agreement that South Carolina’s law required broad modification in order to respond to the serious concerns raised by the attorney general that the law as written would exclude minority voters.”
- Also in August, a court blocked the implementation of early-voting restrictions in Florida, saying it unfairly discriminated against blacks. African-Americans were far more likely to vote early than whites in recent elections, and the law passed in Florida attempted to limit early-voting days from 14 to just eight.
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