Created: Tue, 25 Jun 2013 10:28:00 EST
Updated: Fri, 16 Aug 2013 12:27:06 EST
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 court did not strike down the advance approval requirement of the law that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it 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."
But by overruling the section of the law that established what areas of the country were effected, experts say the court left the law unenforceable. Congress will have to consider new voter registration data to redraw the states and areas impacted.
In middle Georgia, the advance approval requirement has delayed elections for a consolidated government for the city of Macon and Bibb County. The election had been scheduled for July but a Department of Justice request for more information has pushed back the election indefinitely.
But they said lawmakers must update the formula for determining which parts of the country must seek Washington's approval for election changes.