Voting Rights Decision Affects Florida and Georgia

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Florida and Georgia residents are now on their own if they want to complain about voting rights issues.

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional.

The high court's 5-4 decision has its supporters and detractors.

In the early 1960's, some states in the deep south had laws in place like literacy testing some people believed were designed to keep minorities from voting.

To stop the practice, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.

Part of that act included placing whole states like Georgia under federal watch.

Any time one of those states passed a voting law, it had to be pre-approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled because that formula hasn't changed in 40 years, it's unconstitutional.

"Honestly I don't think what the court did today, despite the fact we were certainly involved, was any surprise," said Florida State law professor Franita Tolson.

Tolson helped file a brief in the case.

She says the ruling means Congress will have to change the formula to determine what parts of the country must have laws pre-approved by the federal government.

"We recognize that the gridlock in Congress pretty much ensures that there will be no updated coverage formula any time in the future," said Tolson.

Florida had five counties under a pre-approval order.

Those counties were placed under that order because in 1972, they had English only ballots with more than five percent of their residents non-English speaking, even though non-English ballots weren't required then as they are now.

Now a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner says all Florida counties will be treated equally.

Tolson says the ruling also means individual voters would have to file suit if they believe rights have been violated.

Before today's ruling, she says the federal government could stop problematic laws before they were put in place.

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