EXPLAINER: Voting Rights Act decision by Supreme Court - KMSP-TV

EXPLAINER: Voting Rights Act decision by Supreme Court

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In a month of critical Supreme Court decisions, one was handed down Tuesday that could have a major impact on voting rights in this country.

What the High Court said, in a 5-4 decision, is that times have changed dramatically in the South since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. So, they struck down part of the law which designated which parts of the country (15 states) must have changes to their voting laws approved by the federal government or a federal court.

With this part of the law over-ruled, these certain parts of our country, many which have had voting irregularities in the past, can now pass regulations (like Voter ID) without needing approval from a federal entity.

As far as discrimination goes, this now puts even more burden of proof on the person to prove they were discriminated against when voting. This is also a bit of a slap in the face to Congress, because in 2006, a 25-year extension of this law was passed overwhelmingly in the House (390-33) and the Senate (98-0).

"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," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, Congress "found that 40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination following nearly 100 years of disregard for the 15th Amendment."

In other words, Congress feels there are still problems when it comes to discrimination and voting and the federal government needs to keep a watchful eye on the problem. What the majority opinion says is that's no longer the case.

This is one of the country's most important and effective civil rights laws, which some are saying has now "been gutted" by five justices.

One civil rights attorney said "jurisdictions will be able to enact policies which prevent minorities from voting, and the only recourse these citizens will have will be expensive and time-consuming litigation."

Why did such a critical piece of legislation have to be "extended" by Congress in 2006? Does this mean these states can start enacting whatever laws they want, which may disenfranchise voters?

Watch the video for further explanation and the implications of the Supreme Court's decision.

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