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High court voids key part of Voting Rights Act

  • Representatives from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, awaiting a decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a voting rights case in Alabama. The Supreme Court says a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced until Congress comes up with a new way of determining which states and localities require close federal monitoring of elections. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled 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.

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

The court did not strike down the advance approval requirement of the law that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965. But the justices did say lawmakers must update the formula for determining which parts of the country must seek Washington's approval, in advance, for election changes.

Chief Justice John Roberts said for the conservative majority that Congress "may draft another formula based on current conditions."

That task eluded Congress in 2006 when lawmakers overwhelmingly renewed the advance approval requirement with no changes in which states and local jurisdictions were covered, and Congress did nothing in response to a high court ruling in a similar challenge in 2009 in which the justices raised many of the same concerns.


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