ATLANTA -- Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states from having to ask Washington's permission before changing election procedures in places with histories of discrimination.
After the high court announced its momentous ruling Tuesday, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP legislature please. And Georgia's most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.
The Supreme Court's 5-4 opinion struck down as outdated a key provision of the landmark 1965 law credited with ensuring ballot access to millions of black Americans, American Indians and other minorities. The opinion gives Congress an opportunity to retool the law's so-called pre-clearance sections that give the U.S. Justice Department veto power over local elections. But the prospects of a quick fix seem uncertain, at best, given stark ideological divides on Capitol Hill on a host of matters.
Southern Republicans largely hailed Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion as recognition of racial progress since President Lyndon Johnson signed the law at the apex of the civil rights movement.
"Over the last half-century, Georgia has reformed, and our state is a proud symbol of progress," Gov. Nathan Deal said. "Today's decision guarantees that Georgia will be treated like every other state -- a right we have earned."
Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and civil rights activist who was beaten as he advocated for voting rights in the 1960s, called the ruling "a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act."