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Voting Rights Act Provision Struck Down By SCOTUS: Unreasonable Decision or Congress' Fault?

People wait outside the Supreme Court in anticipation of key decisions being announced, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 17, 2013. With a week remaining in the current Supreme Court term, several major cases are still outstanding that could have widespread political impact on same-sex marriage, voting rights, and affirmative action. (AP)

In an ideologically divided and surprising vote, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act Tuesday, calling the formula (Section 4) that governs which states’ voting laws should be subject to federal scrutiny (Section 5) the “perpetuation of racial entitlement."  The Washington Post reports the Court said Congress must come up with a new formula based on current data to identify which states should be covered for special federal oversight.

The act currently covers the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as Alaska and Arizona, and parts of seven other states. It requires them to receive “pre-clearance” from either the attorney general or federal judges before making any changes to election or voting laws.

Roberts said that the court had warned Congress four years ago, in a separate case, that basing the coverage formula on “40-year-old facts” led to serious constitutional questions.

Liberal justices supporting the law note that since the Civil War amendments, Congress has been specifically instructed to pass laws enforcing equal rights and minority voting rights. Without the provisions in place proponents argue it will be extremely difficult for the current ideological makeup in Congress to come to an agreement on oversight.

President Barack Obama said he was disappointed with the decision, and argued it invalidated one of the Voting Rights Act's core provisions, upsetting "decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent."

On 'Real News' Tuesday the panel discussed the landmark decision and what is next for the Voting Rights Act.

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