WASHINGTON (AP/WVOC) - 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 has declared unconstitutional a provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act -- a provision that determines which states and localities must get Washington's approval to make changes in election laws.
The justices said the law relies on data from decades ago that does not 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.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson is praising the high court's ruling.
He says it means states can now implement laws like those requiring voters to have certain forms of identification without having to ask the federal government for permission.
Wilson sued the U.S. Department of Justice for rejecting South Carolina's voter ID law in 2011. A panel of federal judges upheld the law last October.
The latest Supreme Court ruling would allow federal monitoring of election laws in some states if Congress updates its formula for determining what areas should be subjected to it, taking into account what Chief Justice John Roberts calls “current conditions” in the U.S.
WVOC asked Wilson if he thinks that needs to happen.
“If Congress can recognize an extreme injustice being perpetrated by any individual state and they can quantifiable data that they can implement into a test that's reasonable and fair and narrowly tailored, then sure, that's fine,” the Attorney General said.
“The question is though is the conditions that exist today...how different are they from 1965? I would submit to you that we live in a far different America and a far different South Carolina than we did 50 years ago.”
But 6th District Congressman James Clyburn says he's not so sure the country has racially mended itself when it comes to voting, pointing to steps he feels can dilute minority voting such as photo voter ID requirements and redistricting.
“All one has to do is take a look at the shenanigans that were taking place last year in the run-up to the 2012 elections,” Clyburn says, “and you would know that there are a lot of jurisdictions all over this country that are poised to go to great lengths to hamper and discourage voting participation by people of color.”
The state's only Democratic congressman says he's disappointed in the High Court's ruling and feels Congress should move swiftly to come up with a new elections monitoring formula.