The Voting Rights Act of 1965 attempted to end discrimination at the polls. Written into the act were several sections, or provisions. One of the most controversial and debated aspects involves the preclearance stipulations of sections 4 and 5.
The term “preclearance” in this case refers to, “Advance approval by a federal court or the Department of Justice for changes to voting regulations in certain states under the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” according to Wordnik
The states requiring preclearance in this case were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, according to the U.S. Department of Justice
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There were also several states that, while preclearance was not required as a whole, selected counties within those states needed preclearance under the provision. Those states were California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota.
Each of the states referenced fell under the provision because of their history of discrimination dating back to Civil War times.
However, as a result of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, these states need no longer apply for preclearance before making changes to their voting laws. Section 5 was declared unconstitutional in a 5-4 vote of Supreme Court justices.
Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that, "Our country has changed in the past 50 years ... Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices ... 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.”
Following the Supreme Court ruling, many minorities and support groups voiced their outrage, USA Today reported
. Those in favor of the decision claimed that states can now be authorized to combat voter fraud, while those against it claim that the door to voter discrimination was just reopened after years of hard progress.
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The effects are already being felt. Ballard Sphar LLP said
: “The demise of Section 4 has had and will continue to have substantial effects. Mere hours after the Court issued its decision, Texas announced that it would activate its controversial voter ID law and possibly the redistricting maps passed by the Texas legislature. The North Carolina legislature has also indicated its plan to enact a statute...that requires voters to present state-issued photo ID to vote.”
Only time will tell what effect the removal of the preclearance statues of the Voting Rights Act will have on the voting populace.
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