The federal government no longer has legal authority to monitor voting laws passed in racist areas. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that today in a 5-4 vote over section 4 of the monumental 1965 Civil Rights Act.
Today's SCOTUS decision is deeply disappointing. The Court has effectively taken the legs out from underneath the Voting Rights Act.
— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) June 25, 2013
Section 4 was created in 1965 to ensure that racist areas of the South could not create laws that barred or hindered racial minorities from voting. The section stated that all laws pertaining to voting passed in certain (historically racist) areas of the country had to be approved by the federal government in Washington, D.C.
The decision was made because the majority of the Supreme Court Justices believe that it is time to update how the government evaluates, as the BBC puts it, "which jurisdictions' election laws require monitoring."
Shelby County, Alabama launched the initial complaint that the rule overstepped the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Nancy Jacobson at scotusblog.com said that the elimination of the section does not entirely prevent the federal government from intervening in the case of discriminatory voting laws, it just puts the burden of proof on the accuser:
We should be clear that the VRA still gives us the option to challenge changes to election legislation in any jurisdiction just as we have before; however, the jurisdiction previously covered in Section 4, which were required to get approval from the DOJ for any changes, no longer have to get approval or "pre-clearance." We can still challenge the cahnges, but the burden is on the challenger to provide it's a violation of the VRA...
It will be interesting to see how the government will compensate for this loss, as well as ensure voting rights for the millions of people across the country whose voting was suppressed in the 2012 election.