VA Leaders, Groups Weigh in on Voting Rights Act Ruling

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Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The ruling has alarmed some legislatures and civil rights groups - but how will it affect voting in Virginia? 

The Supreme Court's decision struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed during the height of the civil rights movement. Many in Virginia are weighing in. Groups such as Virginia Organizing are calling it a setback, saying: "Virginia Organizing is disappointed in the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act. This important law made it clear that our nation would not tolerate systemic oppression of certain people groups." 

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli released a statement Tuesday, saying: "Regardless of the court's decision, legal mechanisms remain in place to safeguard the vote of Virginia's citizens."

While opinions are strong, University of Virginia professor Mike Gilbert says it will take time before the impact of the ruling is truly seen. "It could be that we don't need this provision of the Voter Rights Act anymore," he said. "The historical discrimination is largely eradicated and things will work just fine without all this bureaucratic red tape and that would be great, but it could also go the other way." 

The ruling also puts in limbo two laws signed by Governor Bob McDonnell earlier this year, including one that will require voters to have a photo ID at the polls. "I don't think we can send them to the Justice Department because we don't have a law by which to judge if Virginia should be pre-cleared," McDonnell said. 

The ruling goes into effect on July 14. While Congress has the opportunity to weigh in with new criteria for the nine voting rights states, if it doesn't, those new laws may be at a standstill. "I think it could if there's no new law put in place by Congress by July 14. Does it go into effect without pre-clearance?" McDonnell said. 

Congress now has the opportunity to step in and provide a new coverage formula to the Supreme Court.

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