Virginians react to Supreme Court Voting Rights decision

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jun 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-25 19:46:14-04

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) -- It didn't take long for Virginians to react to the decision of the US Supreme Court to strike down a key component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"Obviously I feel quite disappointed," L.J. McCoy, President of the Chesterfield NAACP, said.

"If Justice Roberts had the opportunity to walk with me through Hillside Court he'd have a better understanding of why pre-clearance is needed," McCoy added.

Since 1965, any change in voting or election procedure in Virginia had to be approved by the United States Justice Department.

However that is no longer the case. Tuesday the Supreme Court said the formula for deciding which states require federal approval is outdated and unconstitutional.

The Court said that if Congress adopted new guidelines explaining why a state must clear its laws with the federal government that could be deemed constitutional, emphasizing the current formula just doesn't make sense.

"The fight is not over," McCoy said.

But some say the court's decision is the right one.

"We have really grown up a lot over the last 50 years," Teresa Smithson, Hanover County's General Registrar, said.

Smithson said Hanover County was recently made "exempt" from certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

She said the act had become a burden in recent years, and required the county to waste time and money seeking the Justice Department's approval over what some considered simple voting changes.

"Hiring the legal staff alone can be pretty extensive," Smithson said.

Election law expert Atty. Stephen Piepgrass says the court's decision is effective immediately, meaning any Virginia law currently awaiting approval by the Justice Department is no longer necessary.