The Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that a key part of the Voting Rights Act—the landmark civil-rights law protecting racial minorities from discrimination at the polls—is unconstitutional in its current form.
The decision, announced Monday morning, invalidates—at least for now—Section 5, a crucial tool for fighting racial discrimination in voting, and comes at a time of rising concern over efforts to restrict access to the ballot box. It represents a victory for conservatives, and a blow to the voting rights of millions of non-white Americans.
“If the Court struck down or weakened Section 5, it would lead to the largest rollback of American democracy since the end of Reconstruction,” Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told reporters recently in advance of the ruling.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, including most southern states, submit any changes to their election systems to the U.S. Justice Department for “pre-clearance.” The Justice Department is empowered to block changes that could reduce minority voting power. In the decision announced Thursday, Shelby County v. Holder, the court ruled that the formula used by Congress to decide which jurisdictions are covered under the law, known as Section 4b, violates the Constitution.Supreme Court guts landmark civil rights law — MSNBC