U.S. Supreme Court strikes down section of Voting Rights Act

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A divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that applies to five Florida counties, saying that the formula Congress created to single out so-called “covered jurisdictions” is antiquated. reports the News Service of Florida.

That formula, based on data from the 1960s and 1970s, is used to decide which parts of the country must submit almost any changes in voting laws or practices to the federal government for approval. “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,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 5-4 majority, which included the more-conservative members of the high court.

But in a dissent joined by the more-liberal members of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the section of the law struck down was crafted specifically to make sure that discriminatory voting laws never returned to areas of the country that had used them to bar minorities from participating in elections. “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” she wrote. Supporters of the law seized on the ruling’s suggestion that Congress might be able to rewrite the formula determining covered jurisdictions to make it constitutional.

“The ball is now in Congress’s court to act as quickly as possible to ensure the federal government has the tools it needs to protect the vote in places — like Florida — that have worked so hard to frustrate the fundamental right of their citizens to vote,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the ruling would make it easier for Florida to change its voting laws. “It will streamline the changes made in the elections process and reduce costs,” he said. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.