The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced unless congress comes up with a new formula for deciding on which states and municipalities need federal monitoring.
The act required some states, including Texas, to get preclearance before changing election laws. Changes to boundary lines or even polling place locations had to be signed off by the Department of Justice.
The justices said in a 5-4 vote the law relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect racial progress in society. Congress is allowed to come up with a different formula for deciding which states need monitoring, but new legislation is viewed as unlikely.
Public policy lawyer Marcos Ronquillo was blunt in his assessment of the ruling.
"The Supreme Court today declaring Section Four unconstitutional basically guts, undermines, pretty much eliminates the Voting Rights Act as we know it," Ronquillo said.
Texas will now begin enforcing new election laws immediately. The state's voter ID law is now in effect, the state announced on Tuesday, requiring voters to produce a photo ID.
Local Republicans were pleased with the announcement.
"What may have been true back in 1965 is no longer true in 2013," said Wade Emmert, Dallas County Republican chairman. "This is a good day. All southern states, all states want to have control over their own elections."
The Rev. Peter Johnson, a local civil rights activist, was not happy about the decision.
Civil rights leaders say they feel progress made over many decades has been lost.
"If you think you can trust the State of Texas and Dallas County to draw fair lines giving everybody equal access to political power, then you are naive," Rev. Johnson said.
KDFW FOX 4
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