A deeply divided Supreme Court ruled last Tuesday that a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced unless Congress comes up with an up-to-date formula for deciding which states and localities still need federal monitoring.

In a 5-4 vote, the justices said the law Congress must recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society.

While the court did not strike down the advance approval requirement of the law that has been used, mainly in the South, the court’s decision is still a deep disappointment.

The high court is now asking Congress to “draft another formula based on current conditions,” when Congress was unable to do so in 2006 when lawmakers overwhelmingly renewed the advance approval requirement with no changes in which states and local jurisdictions were covered.

“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,” said Chief Justice John Roberts.

The court’s decision was rightly condemned by many civil rights leaders and elected officials.

President Barack Obama released a statement expressing disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today,” said Obama “For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act—enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress—has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”

The election and re-election of President Obama is used by some conservatives as a reason why the Voting Rights Act should be changed. They completely ignore efforts at voter suppression by Republican controlled-state legislatures in the 2012 presidential election. They also ignore the fact that a major reason why progress has been made in voting rights is because of the Voting Rights Act. Keeping the Voting Rights Act fully intact has helped to safeguard voter rights.

The Supreme Court made a bad decision. But it is now time to focus on Congress.

We urge readers to write to their congress person and ask them to act quickly in coming up with a new way of determining which states and localities require close federal monitoring of elections.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)



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