A deeply divided Supreme Court has limited use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, in effect invalidating the key enforcement provision that applies to all or parts of 15 states with past history of voter discrimination.
The ruling could clear the way for the Beaumont Independent School District to implement a voter-approved measure that would change the district from 7 single member districts to a 5 member district and two at-large. The change was stalled by the Department of Justice because under the Voting Rights Act, Texas school districts were required to gain DOJ approval, or "preclearance" prior to implementing the change. Today's ruling appears to eliminate the preclearance requirement.
According to the "In Plain English" blog written by Supreme Court staffers, while Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act still exists, "it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it."
According to legal analysis from NBC News, the Act still stands and certain states and jurisdictions might still need federal approval for any changes in election laws, but not until Congress decides WHICH states on what standard, which looks unlikely. President Obama and civil rights activists call the ruling a setback. Backers of the ruling say it shows racial discrimination in America is largely eliminated, and say black candidates and voters are successful in the Old South.
Here is BISD's statement regarding the ruling:
"Melody Chappell, attorney for the Beaumont Independent School District, and the election legal team are reviewing today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling to determine its impact on BISD.
Legal counsel has advised BISD officials that the Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which provided jurisdictions with preclearance enforcements by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"We will review the matter to determine what this means for BISD's anticipated 2013 election," Chappell explained."
Supporters of the 5-2 plan see this as a victory for BISD taxpayers.
"More representation is better than less," says Beaumont attorney Mike Getz.
Getz anticipates voters going back to the polls in November to have three votes: one for a trustee and two votes for the at-large position.
Here is the Supreme Court's decision