A Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act opened the floodgates for new restrictions

Lisa Sorg of NC Policy Watch, John McCosh of the Georgia Recorder, Ken Coleman of the Michigan Advance, Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix and Graham Moomaw of the Virginia Mercury contributed to this report.Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) supporters march in Phoenix on Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. /AP Photo/Matt York

Battle for the Ballot, a special project of States Newsroom

By Jeremy Duda | Arizona Mirror

Republican legislators had been contemplating a bill that would require photo identification to vote. The bill had plenty of support, but it had spent the past two months sitting in committee while lawmakers waited for the Supreme Court to determine whether the state could go much further.

North Carolina was among a handful of states that couldn’t change its election laws or procedures without approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. Preclearance, as the practice was known, was part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and applied only to a handful of states and counties deemed to have exceptionally troubling records when it came to disenfranchising minority voters.

What is Shelby v Holder?

Officials in Shelby County, Alabama, brought a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department and then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010, arguing that Section 4b and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act were no longer needed. After lower courts ruled against them, the county appealed to the Supreme Court and won in a 5-4 ruling.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion and said the coverage formula in section 4b used to determine which states were subject to preclearance was outdated, writing “the tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years.” He wrote: “Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act.”

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