Photo: Supreme Court Ruling on 1965 Voting Rights Law
In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court today struck down part of the historic 1965 Voting Rights law. In its decision the court has allowed states with history of voter discrimination the right not to seek federal government approval when changing their own voting laws.
Alabama and North Carolina had challenged Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Law saying it was no longer needed and they sought to determine their own voting laws. Section 5 gave the federal government much say as to how Section 5 states structured their voting procedures everything from where polling locations were put to congressional maps to voters application forms.
The ruling reverses decades-old policies designed to protect minority voters from discrimination.
The ruling comes at a time when many states are attempting to impose additional voting requirements such as proof of citizenship, English only ballots and photo ID requirement when showing up at the ballot box.
The Supreme Court is asking for Congress to come up with a new way to determine which states really still need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Law. Most of the states covered under Section 5 are in the South where few minority voters went to the polls during the 1960’s. The Supreme Court opined that past discriminatory practices could not continue to be held against these states.
Many Civil rights groups and Latino advocacy organizations say Section 5 is an important tool in protecting minority voters from local governments that would set unfair barriers to vote.
The NAACP was quick to react:
“Today will be remembered as a step backwards in the march towards equal rights. We must ensure that this day is just a page in our nation’s history, rather than the return to a dark chapter.
In the last few years we have witnessed an assault on our voting rights in the places covered by the Voting Rights Act that has been historic, both in terms of its scope and intensity. In the 2012 elections, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act blocked efforts to suppress millions of voters of color in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. In the past 25 years, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has stopped over 1,000 proposed discriminatory voting changes from taking effect.”