US top court removes key part of anti-discrimination law | News | DW | 25.06.2013
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US top court removes key part of anti-discrimination law

The US Supreme Court has struck down part of a voting rights law aimed at preventing discrimination against minority communities. A divided Congress is now tasked with replacing the overturned section.

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a key section of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and called on Congress to update the formula that determines which states are subject to federal supervision over their electoral laws.

In a 5-4 decision, the court's conservative majority struck down Section 4 of the law. The section defines a formula for determining which states must be supervised by the federal government in order to prevent racial discrimination against minority voters.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia are currently covered by the section. Some local governments in California, Florida, Michigan and New York are also subject to federal intervention.

"Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting," Chief Justice John Roberts argued, writing the majority opinion.

US President Barack Obama, the United States' first African American commander-in-chief, said he was "deeply disappointed" with the Supreme Court's ruling.

"While today's decision is a setback, it doesn't represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination," the president said. "I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls."

Long history of voter discrimination

Passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was a victory for the civil rights movement led by the Reverend Martin Luther King. Up until the passage of the act, African American voters faced widespread voter discrimination, primarily in the former slaveholding southern states.

The court's decision on Tuesday came in response to a lawsuit by Shelby County, Alabama, which argued that the widespread state-sponsored racial discrimination of the past no longer exists.

"Coverage today is based on a decades-old data and eradicated practices," Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

"Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were," he continued

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in the dissenting opinion that no one doubts voting discrimination still exists, "but the court today terminates the remedy that proved to be best suited to block that discrimination."

slk/ks (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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