Key Provision of Voting Rights Act is Blocked, Unless Congress Gives it an Update

People line up outside the Supreme Court in Washington (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
By  | 

WASHINGTON The federal government may no longer use what's been its most potent tool to stop voting discrimination over the past half century.

A divided Supreme Court today declared unconstitutional a provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act -- a provision that determines which states and localities have to get Washington's approval to make changes in election laws.

The justices said the law relies on data from 40 years ago -- numbers that don't reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society.

The decision effectively puts an end to the advance approval requirement that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters since the law was first enacted in 1965.

The requirement can again take effect, but only after Congress comes up with a new formula that meets what Chief Justice John Roberts calls "current conditions" in the United States.

President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to do just that. He says the ruling is a "setback," but that it won't mean "the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination."