SCOTUS Voting Rights Act decision allows states to change election laws

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was – in both its conception and passage – an acknowledgment of the wrongs of the past and hopes for the future.

In a landmark 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said Tuesday the Act – while still noble in its goals – relies on old data that forced several states and jurisdictions to get pre-approval from Washington before making any changes to their voting laws.

The Court says the criteria used in the Act is no longer relevant and should be updated by Congress.

Chief Justice John Roberts writes, “Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions. It cannot simply rely on the past.”

Most of the affected states are in the south – where the civil rights activits fought, and died for the right to vote.

But today’s decision will have an impact in our area specifically Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

We spoke with Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams about the Surpreme Court Decision.

“I think the most dangerous thing, when I hear decisions, and when people support decisions like this – is the belief that we are in a post-racial country. Because it allows us to do things that are going to harm people”, Williams told PIX11.

Attorney General Eric Holder echoed Williams’ sentiments.

“I am deeply disappointed, deeply disappointed, with the court’s decision in this matter. This decision represents a serious setback for voting rights and has the potential to negatively affect millions of Americans across the country,” said Holder.

New York Civil Liberties Executive Director Donna Lieberman says repairing the Voting Rights Acts will be no easy task.

Lieberman told PIX11, “I think there are no sure bets in this congress that it will do the right thing – even when doing the right thing is kind of a no brainer. There is absolutely still a need in our area, and in far too many areas around the country for a voting rights act that protects us against voter suppression.”

The decision does have its supporters, who argue the inequalities that justified the need for the Voting Rights Act in the first place does not – in 2013 – put all states on a level playing field.

“The supreme court’s opinion today in Shelby county, Alabama versus holder is a great testament to the character of the American people, those living in the north and especially those living in the south who have labored to ensure that the goal of racial equality in voting has been fulfilled”, said Project on Fair Representation Director Edward Blum.

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