This morning, the Supreme Court struck down a core part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, “a landmark law that opened the polls to millions of southern blacks,” as Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr put it. In a much-anticipated 5-4 decision, the court ruled that Congress could not require states with a history of disenfranchising minority voters to get federal approval before redrawing election districts, changing voting rules, or moving polling places. “What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act,” Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and seminal figure in the civil rights movement, told ABC News’s Jeff Zeleny.
How important is this decision? Well, since 2006 the U.S. Justice Department has blocked 31 attempts to change voting laws, most of them in the nine, mostly Southern states fully covered by the relevant section of the law. (They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.) Most, if not all, of those proposed changes would have aided Republican electoral fortunes by making it harder for minorities to vote (because most vote Democratic). But the Justice Department stepped in.