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Supreme Court invalidates key section of Voting Rights Act





The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby County v. Holder on Tuesday, invalidating a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices held that Section 4 was based on an outdated formula that does not reflect current attitudes about racial discrimination. The decision means that several states -- including Alaska and Arizona, where American Indians and Alaska Natives have been subject to discrimination at the polls -- won't be subject to extra scrutiny by the Department of Justice until Congress updates the law.

The court did not address the legality of Section 5, which requires certain states -- including Alaska, Arizona and parts of North Carolina, and South Dakota, where Indian voting rights have been an issue -- must obtain "preclearance" from DOJ before making changes to voting plans. However, language in the majority's opinion could be construed as a warning to Congress to update the law.

The Navajo Nation, the Alaska Federation of Natives, several Alaska tribes and individual Indians signed onto briefs for the case. Tribal issues weren't brought up during oral arguments and weren't discussed in any of the opinions issued yesterday.

Get the Story:
Supreme Court decision on Voting Rights Act has broad impact in Alaska (The Anchorage Daily News 6/26)
South Dakota counties with many Indian voters could face less federal scrutiny (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 6/26)
Supreme Court stops use of key part of Voting Rights Act (The Washington Post 6/26)
Supreme Court decision on voting rights may leave law in limbo (The Washington Post 6/26)
Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act (The New York Times 6/26)
On Voting Case, Reaction From ‘Deeply Disappointed’ to ‘It’s About Time’ (The New York Times 6/26)

Some Opinions:
An Assault on the Voting Rights Act (The New York Times 6/26)
Richard L. Hasen: The Chief Justice’s Long Game (The New York Times 6/26)

Supreme Court Decision:
Shelby County v. Holder (June 25, 2013)

Related Stories:
Opinion: Justice Scalia doesn't understand Voting Rights Act (04/29)
Editorial: Voting Rights Act necessary to prevent discrimination (03/12)
Voting Rights Act challenged by Supreme Court conservatives (02/28)