Supreme Court strikes down part of Voting Rights Act
By Pete Williams and Erin McClam, NBC News
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a civil rights law that requires some states to get federal permission to change their voting rules, but it struck down the formula for which jurisdictions are covered — leaving it to Congress to redraw the map.
The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts. The vote was 5-4.
“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,” Roberts wrote for the court.
Under the law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, nine mostly Southern states must get permission from the Justice Department or a special panel of three federal judges before they make changes. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.
The act is considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever passed. Congress has renewed it four times, most recently in 2006, with overwhelming margins in both houses.
But the law still uses election data from 1972 to determine which states, cities and counties are covered. Some jurisdictions complain that they are being punished for the sins of many decades ago.
Legal observers have said that striking down the map would mean sending the issue back to a deeply divided Congress, and they said it was an open question whether Congress could even agree on a new coverage map.