The Supreme Court has voted down the key tenant of the Voting Rights Act by a 5-4 decision, the New York Times reports. Citing out-of-date data, the Court told Congress it needed to update it's material in order to enforce federal regulation upon the states.
“In 1965, the states could be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”
Chief Justice Roberts said that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data. When the law was last renewed, in 2006, Congress relied on data from decades before. The chances that the current Congress could reach agreement on where federal oversight is required are small, most analysts say.
Though the data may be old, states not under watch of the feds continue to try and suppress voters. Pennsylvania is a prime example from the 2012 election. But the fact that Barack Obama is now the President apparently changes things in the eyes of the Court.
Critics of Section 5 say it is a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified. They point to high voter registration rates among blacks and the re-election of a black president as proof that the provision is no longer needed.
Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, say the law played an important role in the 2012 election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.