A Supreme Court ruling Tuesday strips power over voting and election rules from the federal government and returns it to states such as Mississippi with discriminatory pasts. The court, in a 5-4 ruling, effectively eliminated the federal advanced-approval power over voting laws from the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Justice Department had used this “preclearance” power to shoot down the literacy tests, poll taxes, gerrymandering and more subtle measures that were used to inhibit minority voting. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the ruling will allow him to “start today” on implementing a state voter ID law that had been awaiting federal approval. He said the new requirements should be in place for the June 2014 primaries.
The court said the Voting Rights Act relies on 40-year-old, outdated data that doesn’t consider social and political changes since the 1960s. The court technically left intact the “preclearance” of voting laws by Justice, but said Congress must come up with a new formula for determining which states and locales must get preclearance.
Given recent partisan gridlock, many political observers say such action from Congress is unlikely anytime soon, meaning power over election laws will shift from the federal level to the states, even in Deep South states such as Mississippi.
“Now, there’s no way to enforce it until Congress acts, and Congress … will not be able to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” said Stennis Institute of Government Director Marty Wiseman. “This shifts things from the federal level to the state level. It puts a lot on Delbert Hosemann’s shoulders.”