Supreme Court ruling means Congress must set new standards for states hoping to change election laws.
(NBC News) The Supreme Court today dealt a blow to one of this nation's landmark pieces of civil rights legislation.
In a 5-4 ruling, the sharply divided high court struck down a key component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The court upheld the part of the law that forced jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to seek permission of the federal government when they change election procedures.
But the high court invalidated the way those jurisdictions are mapped out and left it up to Congress to decide how, or whether, to come up with a new formula.
So has the nation that elected Barack Obama ended racism at the polls?
Some say yes and applauded the Supreme Court's ruling.
"The goal of racial equality in voting has been fulfilled," said Edward Blum of Project of Fair Representation.
That was the dream when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, in 1965.
Today, most justices agree that some discrimination still exists.
But for a minority of 4 liberals on the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote:
"The court today terminates the remedy that proved to be best suited to block that discrimination"
Across the south, the ruling takes away the federal government's power to reject changes in voting procedures in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.
Writing for the court's majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said states should not be judged based on quote, "Decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems."
"Alabama has changed. Minority voter registration is better here than in states that don't have to comply," said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said states still need policing.
"This decision represents a serious setback for voting rights and has the potential to negatively affect millions of Americans across the country," Holder said.
Congress can revive the Voting Rights Act to include new evidence of voter discrimination and which states deserve federal oversight
But that means another fight with Congress for President Obama.