ETX lawyer analyzes Supreme Court changes to Voting Rights Act - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

ETX lawyer analyzes Supreme Court changes to Voting Rights Act


The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on Tuesday.

The Court's 5-to-4 decision frees states with a history of racial discrimination from having to clear voting procedures changes with the federal government.

The Voting Rights Act was a key piece of civil rights legislation in the 1960s put in place to make sure local and state governments didn't discriminate against minority voters at the polls.

It required certain local and state governments to pre-clear any election law changes with the federal government.

The Court did not strike down section 5 of the law, which says pre-clearance is constitutional.

But it did say that section 4, which lays out the formula that determines which state and local governments have to clear their voting changes with the federal government, is unconstitutional.

That section applied to nine states and parts of six others, including Texas.

"What this means is, states like Texas, which is one of the nine, do not currently under the court's decision, do not have to apply for pre-clearance for changes in voting methods," said Andy Tindel, a lawyer with the MT-2 Law Group in Tyler.

The Voting Rights Act was last approved by Congress in 2006, but on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said that the pre-clearance guidelines that were last updated by Congress in 1972 don't reflect modern day realities.

"The majority opinion is that, you know, things are different than they were in 1964 and 1965 in the South," said Tindel. "The South has come a long way and there's no reason to have these onerous and expensive pre-clearance requirements on just nine states out of our 50.

That means that while the Voting Rights Act of 1965 isn't invalid, there will have to be major changes made if the overall pre-clearance concept is to survive.

"It's going to have to go back to Congress, there's going to have to be hearings, and there will have to be a vote to approve it, and with the political divide that we have now in Congress between conservative and moderate and liberal, it's very unlikely that any kind of change to Section 4 is going to come about in the near future," Tindel said.

Civil rights activists across the country have said that there are still voting rights problems that will be ignored because of the changes to the law.

"The dissent, which is Judge Ginsburg's dissent in this case, said really, the Voting Rights Act is a victim of its own success, because because of the Voting Rights Act, things did change in these nine states in the South. And now, they're using that success to hold the law unconstitutional," said Tindel.

The ruling has already affected Texas in the form of a Voter ID law that passed the Texas Legislature in 2011 but had not been approved by the federal government.

This Supreme Court ruling means that when you vote in Texas in the future, you will have to show a photo ID.

People who are against these changes have said that requirement will disenfranchise certain groups of voters.

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