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Supreme Court Ruling Implications Unclear for Mississippi

WASHINGTON, D.C.–One of the only things that is clear this point after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act, is that the feds are using 40-plus-year-old data in making decisions about the way Mississippi election decisions are made.

Exactly how this will change the way the Magnolia State conducts elections is unclear.

In brief, the court, on a 5-4 vote, said Tuesday that the feds cannot have control over whether a state changes its voting laws because the formula in place is from 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was established.

That Act was an emergency provision, meant to immediately give blacks access to the vote in places where they were routinely discriminated against. That included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan.

The Voting Rights Act was renewed in 2006, meaning some jurisdictions like Mississippi, would still have federal oversight , perhaps until 2031. When the law was challenged in 2009, the court barely avoided a similar ruling. Since then opponents have been gearing up to challenge federal authority on issues like voter ID, or any voting law that requires federal oversight.

The challenge ruled on Tuesday came from Shelby County, Alabama.

Over the years, the Voting Rights Acts was considered a success, making it possible for African-Americans to vote when they could not have before. The court, though, with the ruling, acknowledged that times have changed and that Congress may now come up with a new formula to determine who must be watched or how they must be watched by the feds and the Dept. of Justice.

Mississippi currently has a new Voter ID law pending approval from the Dept. of Justice or court action. How this ruling may affect the DOJ’s power to hold approval over what Mississippi may not do is, as yet, unclear.

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