The fall of a key plank of the Voting Rights Act is an unquestionable setback to civil rights advocates, particularly as Republican legislatures across the country push controversial provisions such as voter ID laws that many say unfairly attempt to limit voting by minority voters.
But the Supreme Court’s ruling that Section 4b of the law is unconstitutional does not guarantee states can pass whatever legislation they want on voting.
In fact, throughout 2012, courts struck down controversial voting laws all over the country, particularly in places where Section 4b and Section 5 do not apply.
Before Election Day in 2012, judges in state courts blocked the implementation of voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
A federal court cited the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution when it invalidated a Florida provision that imposed heavy fines on voter registration groups if they didn’t turn in forms for newly-registered voters within 48 hours. A federal judge in Ohio stopped Republican attempts to limit the days of earlier voting there.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week barred Arizona from requiring proof of citizenship to vote.
To be sure, voter ID provisions in Texas and South Carolina were blocked by the Department of Justice through Section 5, a power the Court has at least for now removed from officials in Washington.
But a strong coalition has emerged among liberal groups, ready to challenge voting laws in court wherever they pass. Section 5 actually only applies to nine states (a few other states have counties or parts where pre-clearance of voting laws would have been required), so in most of the country, controversial voting provisions were already not being pre-cleared before today’s ruling.