The Supreme Court dismantled the Voting Rights Act in a 5-4 decision and sent a cloud of frustration and doubt for voting rights advocates.
The decision “moves us from federal protection to states’ right abuse,” civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said on Saturday.
The Roberts Court on Tuesday invalidated Section 4 and removed the backbone from Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As one of the strongest lines of defense against voter suppression, the Section 5 provision required a preclearance of voting changes in states with demonstrable histories of racial discrimination.
Congress now has the responsibility to review and revise Section 4’s coverage formula to determine which states qualify today for federal oversight of their voting laws. The decision has elicited multifarious reactions. Texas and North Carolina are already moving to enact voter ID legislation in response to the ruling.
Senate Democrats have been quick to call for new voting rights legislation. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said he intended to take “immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting.”
Rev. Jackson said he would like to see the federal government protect the right to vote and not leave the decision to states. He underscored the importance of enforcing the federal right to vote, adding that President Obama must make the case to Congress, like President Lyndon B. Johnson did, that everyone can be guaranteed the right to vote.