In a 5-4 ruling that fell along predictable ideological lines, the United States Supreme Court has struck down a significant portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which requires nine states (as well as portions of New York City) to clear changes to their voting procedures with the federal government. The procedures and Federal oversight were intended to protect minorities' right to vote. (Scroll down to read the full decision.)

SCOTUSblog reports that the four conservative justices, along with perennial swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, voted to strike the requirement because, quoting their decision, the formula for its determination is predicated "on decades-old data and eradicated practices."

Section 4 of the VRA set out the formula that specific states had to follow in order to change their voting laws, and Section 5 stipulated the condition that the changes had to have federal approval. The majority did not strike Section 5, but invalidated the formula in Section, so until Congress passes a new formula (ha) Section 5 is essentially impotent.

Justices Kegan, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg dissented, with Ginsburg reading her dissent from the bench.

At oral arguments in February, Justice Breyer said that while many of the areas covered under the VRA have "evolved…we know one thing: the disease is still there."

Indeed, voter ID laws have sprung up to disenfranchise minorities all over the country, most notably in Texas and South Carolina, where the Department of Justice has fought to declare them unconstitutional. An attorney who filed an amicus brief in the case described several months ago the possible impact of today's decision:

How much will be lost if the Court strikes down Section 4 and thus Section 5? One might think, listening to the voices of alarm, that without federal surveillance, renewed disfranchisement would become a serious threat. Jurisdictions would become free to relocate a polling place from one side or a street to the other. A polling place change is the most frequent type of submission to the Justice Department for preclearance, the Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli Jr., explained to the Court. Last-minute changes before an election “can be source of great mischief.” 

Bronx, Kings, and New York Counties were covered under the VRA's Section 5 provisions, though many of the states are southern. In related news, Justice Alito is a dick.

SCOUTS Voting Rights Act Decision