The Supreme Court ruled a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional on Tuesday. Find out what the decision really means, according to information from CNN and other sources.
The Voting Rights Act was originally passed in 1965 in response to racial discrimination that prevented or discouraged minorities from voting in different areas of the country.
The act gave the federal government oversight of voting laws in areas with a history of voter discrimination. It was renewed four times since 1965.
Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, the case decided by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, challenged continued use by the federal government of the Voting Rights Act's key enforcement provision.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act gave federal authorities open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states had to be "pre-cleared" with Washington before proposed changes were implemented.
The states that fell under the Section 5 pre-clearance provision were determined by factors set out in Section 4. Nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and parts of six others (California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota) were covered by the provision.
The provision was reauthorized in 2006 for another quarter-century. Counties in Alabama and North Carolina subsequently filed suit, saying the monitoring was overly burdensome and unwarranted.
In a separate high court case from three years ago, the conservative majority suggested -- but never fully affirmed -- that the continued use of Section 5 may soon be nullified. "Things have changed in the South. Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2009. "Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the pre-clearance requirements. The Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs."
In Tuesday's decision, the Supreme Court determined in a 5-4 majority that Section 4 -- the section that determines which areas are subject to pre-clearance -- was unconstitutional.
That section was struck down because it uses 40-year-old data to determine which states are subject to pre-clearance and doesn't take societal changes into account, according to the AP. "The coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs," Roberts wrote in Tuesday's opinion.
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Even though Section 5 wasn't struck down, if Congress doesn't enact new requirements determining which states need pre-clearance, there would be no way to enforce Section 5.
In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote voting discrimination still exists, even though it is often subtler today than it used to be, and the law is still necessary, according to the AP.
Justice Clarence Thomas voted with the majority, but wrote in a concurring opinion he would have also overturned Section 5.
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