In a 5-4 decision on Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, effectively releasing certain states, counties and towns from the requirement to receive federal preclearance before making changes to voting laws.
The majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder found that the formula under Section 4 for determining which jurisdictions had to "preclear" voting changes was no longer valid because “things have changed dramatically” in the South since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965. To preserve the preclearance process under Section 5, Congress must come up with a new formula to decide which places receive greater legal scrutiny.
Sections 4 and 5 were not arcane or rarely used provisions. They covered a lot of territory, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia and parts of California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Michigan.
And they kicked in with some controversial efforts. Since the 2010 elections, GOP-controlled legislatures across the country have passed stricter voter ID proposals, limited accessibility to voting and polls, and drafted partisan redistricting measures. Seven of these actions were delayed by preclearance and, without the now-unconstitutional Section 4, would have had a more direct path to implementation.