Court Guts Voting Rights Act

The justices' ruling invalidates a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Voting Rights Act protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court (Getty Images)

Updated Tuesday, June 25, 12 p.m. EDT: Various civil rights groups and organizations vociferously condemned the Supreme Court's decision to limit use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court, called it "an act of extraordinary judicial overreach" and called for Congress to step in, according to a statement released after the decision.

"The Supreme Court's decision today to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act is an act of extraordinary judicial overreach," Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP LDF, wrote. "The Supreme Court ruling takes the most powerful tool our nation has to defend minority voting rights out of commission. By second-guessing Congress' judgment about which places should be covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has left millions of minority voters without the mechanism that has allowed them to stop voting discrimination before it occurs. This is like letting you keep your car, but taking away the keys. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. Congress must step in."

In a statement, John M. Greenbaum, chief counsel and senior deputy director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the ruling sets the stage for dire disenfranchisement of minority voters. The committee represented a defendant-intervener in the case.

"The Supreme Court has effectively gutted one of the nation's most important and effective civil rights laws," Greenbaum said in the email statement. "Minority voters in places with a record of discrimination are now at greater risk of being disenfranchised than they have been in decades. Today's decision is a blow to democracy. Jurisdictions will be able to enact policies which prevent minorities from voting, and the only recourse these citizens will have will be expensive and time-consuming litigation."

Barbara R. Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee, added in an email statement:  "This decision disregards the documented history of ongoing voting discrimination in the covered states and paralyzes Section 5, which has blocked thousands of racially discriminatory voting practices and procedures before they could ever take effect," Arnwine wrote. "Civil rights and civic organizations must now unite with the American people -- fighting new discriminatory voting laws lawsuit by lawsuit and state by state -- until Congress acts decisively to replace what has been one of the most effective civil rights laws ever passed."

At 12:30 p.m. EDT, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to deliver a statement on the decision from the Supreme Court.

Earlier:

CNN is reporting that a deeply divided Supreme Court has limited the use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, in effect invalidating the key enforcement provision that applies to all or parts of the 15 states with a history of voter discrimination.

The practical impact of the majority ruling means the separate Section 5 -- the key enforcement provision -- cannot be enforced.

Any changes in voting laws and procedures in those covered states -- including much of the South -- must be "pre-cleared" with Washington. That could include something as simple as moving a polling place temporarily across the street.

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