News / USA

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Key Civil Rights Law

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Voting Rights Provisioni
X
June 25, 2013 9:06 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress. VOA’s Brian Padden reports that the court ruled the law cannot be enforced until Congress comes up with a new way for determining which states and localities require close federal monitoring of elections.
The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant civil rights laws ever passed by Congress.  The law is designed to ensure the rights of minority voters but critics have argued that some aspects of the law have become outdated.  

The high court split along traditional conservative-liberal lines by a vote of five to four. The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts who said the law relies on 40-year old data that does not reflect the racial changes that have occurred in much of the country.

The law was enacted in 1965 to address glaring problems, primarily in southern states where African-Americans were routinely blocked from voting.  The law sets out standards for close federal monitoring of voting and has been reauthorized by Congress several times since.

This latest Supreme Court decision strikes down a part of the law that sets the formula for which states and localities must make changes in voting procedures.  But the high court did not strike down another section of the law that requires states and localities to get pre-clearance from the federal government for any voting changes they may want to make.

Civil rights groups were disheartened by the ruling. 

“We are deeply disappointed by the court’s decision today," said Sherrilyn Ifill, who is with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and spoke to reporters in front of the Supreme Court. "Make no mistake about what has happened.  The court has decided that it stands in a better position than Congress to determine how to protect voting discrimination.”

The Supreme Court decision leaves it up to Congress to change the part of the law that it finds out of date.

The White House issued a statement that said President Barack Obama was disappointed by the decision and called on Congress to ensure all Americans have equal access to the polls.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the law remains a useful tool to block discriminatory voting practices.

“These problems have not been consigned to history," he said. "They continue to exist.  Their effects are real.  They are of today, not yesterday, and they corrode the foundations of our democracy.”

Conservative groups welcomed the high court decision.  

“Back in 1965, an average black man in many areas in the United States couldn’t vote because there were things that were put in their way and various impediments to their voting," said David Almasi, executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington. "Now we have a black president and we have in those same areas that were considered discriminatory back in 1965, we have black office holders that are very common.  We live in a much different world that needs to be figured into things.”

Almasi is also skeptical that Congress will move quickly to update the Voting Rights Act given that the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans.

“We are looking at some potential problems because it is a hot issue and Congress tends to not want to deal with the hot issues," he said. "I think people need to realize that it is not the same world as it was back in 1965.”

The voting rights case was one of the most closely-watched cases of this Supreme Court term.  The high court will close out its annual session on Wednesday with two more highly-anticipated rulings on same sex marriage.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid