State Leaders Pleased Key Part of Voting Rights Act Invalidated

Jun 25, 2013

Gov. Nathan Deal
Credit City of Atlanta

State leaders said they were pleased with today’s Supreme Court ruling effectively invalidating the preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act.

Gov. Nathan Deal agreed it served an important role in combating discrimination when first passed.

“I think initially it did, but I think the best indication it had outlived its usefulness is the fact that the last major redistricting done by the state of Georgia for the House and Senate seats of our state was not even challenged by the Justice Department.”

Through Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Georgia was one of several states required to submit any new election procedures to the Justice Department for review. In effect, those states had to prove their election procedures weren’t discriminatory.

Today's 5-4 Supreme Court ruling strikes down the formula used in Section 4, at least until Congress revisits the law. As a result, Georgia no longer has to pre-clear its election procedures with federal officials.

Deal called the preclearance section “cumbersome” and said the ruling would do much to simplify Georgia elections.

“It just says Georgia is going to be treated like all other states,” said Deal.

He also said the ruling should remove a stigma on Georgia dating back to the Civil Rights era.

“Well, it should, and it’s a stigma that should have been on its face removed because that was the justification initially - was past patterns of conduct.”

Deal said that type of discriminatory conduct is no longer going on.

In a written statement, Attorney General Sam Olens shared Deal’s sentiment, saying “things have changed dramatically” since the 1960s. He added states shouldn’t be treated differently “based on outdated formulas that, thankfully, no longer reflect current practices.”

For the preclearance section to remain in use, Congress would have to revisit the formula of Section 4. Gov. Deal believes that’s not likely.

“I would suggest they have more important things to do like fixing the Affordable Care Act,” said Deal. 

Meanwhile, in an interview with ABC news, Congressman John Lewis (D – Atlanta), one of the civil rights icons who led the fight to pass the law, called it “a sad and dark day in our democracy.” 

“People gave blood to bring us to where we are. Some people gave their lives,” said Lewis.  “What the Supreme Court did was put the dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Lewis said, “we’ve made progress, but there’s still progress to be made.”