Ga., Ala. Officials React to Civil Rights Case Ruling - WRBL

Ga., Ala. Officials React to Civil Rights Case Ruling

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Both Georgia and Alabama officials are reacting to the Supreme Court's decision to throw out part of the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1965.

The clause at issue mandates the federal government oversees how elections are done in states such as Alabama and Georgia. The 14 states on the list are being monitored because of prior voter discrimination allegations.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 Tuesday to send the act back to Congress so they could modernize the enforcement clause.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a statement praising the decision as reflecting how conditions have improved in Alabama since 1965.

"Fifty years ago, there were valid reasons this law was passed. But even though conditions changed over time, the Section 4 test of the Voting Rights Act did not," Bentley wrote. "As Chief Justice Roberts said when he delivered the Supreme Court's opinion, ‘history did not end in 1965,' and ‘history since 1965 cannot be ignored.' Further, he said, ‘The Fifteenth Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future.'"

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens agrees.

"When the Voting Rights Act was passed in the 1960s, several states and local jurisdictions, including Georgia, discriminated against minority voters. Discrimination is wrong, and Section 5 was an appropriate response. I am pleased, however, that the Supreme Court recognized today that, '[n]early 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.'

However, not everyone celebrated the decision.

Alabama Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures (D - Mobile) called the decision "another tactic to suppress the minority vote" in a statement released this morning.

"In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of many milestones in the Civil Rights Movement, the Supreme Court's decision dealt voters a huge setback to justice by essentially eliminating the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act," she wrote. "The members of COngress must immediately enact a new statute to ensure the protection of every American's right to vote. The lives that were lost fighting to enact the Voting Rights Act must not be lost in vain."

President Barack Obama also expressed disappointment in the decision.

"For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans," he wrote. "Today's decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent."

Obama said he will continue to urge Congress.

WVTM contributed to this report

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