Voting Rights Act Takes Hit by Supreme Court

High court rules that Congress needs to update the landmark law from 1965.
5:45 | 06/25/13

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Transcript for Voting Rights Act Takes Hit by Supreme Court
This is an ABC news special. -- -- And I understood problems in New York -- we are coming on the air right now because the Supreme Court has just made a major decision about the voting rights act of 1965. That was -- bill that requires states mostly in the south to submit their election plans and to the federal government to the justice department for review a major component. Of that law has been struck down section for the law the case -- Shelby county Alabama vs they are calling the attorney general ought to bring in our Supreme Court. Correspondent Terry -- to explain the details Terry. Georgia's you know it's impossible to overstate the importance of the voting rights act -- one of the most important laws ever passed by congress even the conservatives on this court acknowledged its success. In transforming. The vote at the democracy of this country what the court did today say it's outdated. That the formula for deciding which states which counties which localities. Need to ask permission of the federal government before they change their election laws that formula. Is outdated. That it's from the -- of Bull Connor and police dogs and fire hoses. And we live in a new -- congress has to go back Republicans and Democrats cooperating. Come up. With an assessment of today's problems on voting rights. And rewrite the act it is a huge huge decision as chief Justice Roberts. Writing for the five conservative majora five member conservative majority says. That the fifteenth amendment that is the post civil war amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. Commands -- the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race he says he goes on the amendment is not designed to punish for the past. Its purpose is to ensure a better future. So what he's saying is that. This great law which as I said even the conservatives acknowledge that success transformed American democracy needs updating. You and everybody who looks at that building the capital across the street from here knows how -- functional that -- is whether or not we'll get a new voting rights act. Is anybody's guess right now. There is no voting rights act operative in the united and this is this it pretty straight conservative liberal split on the court. Yes it is it is it is five to four that conservatives. Roberts Scalia. Kennedy. Thomas and Alito. Holding that the voting rights act is outdated needs to be updated and therefore there is no. Use of this. Tool which is changed American democracy. Until congress passes until congress tussle over just one final point and I want to bring in Jonathan Karl who did not strike down the hard. The act's section five of the voting rights act -- -- find the entire law unconstitutional. That's right the heart of this law is extraordinary. Exercise of federal power which the congress in 1965 said was necessary. To put whole states. Under the supervision of the Justice Department and federal court states that had demonstrated fish's efforts to prevent black people from voting. They put those -- states and other localities under. The jury under the supervision of the Justice Department the question that many of those states have raised its. Can they still do that the court did not answer that question they said what -- what congress must do now -- update the act for two days problem. Spirits -- Jon Karl at the White House John and defeat. For the Obama administration any signs yet -- any sense. What how the White House is gonna respond and whether they will put -- reform of the act before the congress right now. -- going into this George the white house of course was a defendant in this case it made the case strongly that the voting rights act is still. Absolutely necessary as the solicitor general said in making the arguments. Everybody acknowledges that the voting rights act made a huge difference in transforming the cult transforming the culture of blatantly racist voting suppression. The care -- parts of the country now the White House acknowledged the progress has been made. But says that that act and what it does is still critically important so I would expect George that the White House will immediately push for congress to act. To do something -- -- but as Terry points out. The congress is so deeply divided is hard to imagine. Essentially re passing a version of the voting rights act is something that this congress is capable of doing but you can bet that the White House will push for that. -- Fort -- area -- to see how would go through all right I want to bring in our Chief Justice correspondent. Pierre Thomas right now of course the attorney general Eric -- named. In this case Shelby county vs holder and this was personal. For the attorney general. George this is something the attorney general have been personally and professionally involved in. In fact he gave a speech in December of 2011. Laying out why he thought this law was still so important let -- read and be specific. The reality is in jurisdictions across the country both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common. And we don't have to look far to see recent -- So the attorney general has long held. That discrimination and racism is real now the question is can congress deal -- one of the most explosive issues the country still faces. -- -- that is the big question right now the voting -- second 1965 sent back to the congress by the Supreme Court we also learned of the Supreme Court has adjourned. For today -- those big decisions on gay marriage will come later in the week of course will be here. For that as well the right now and take it back to Good Morning America in the west for the rest of the network tune -- to world news tonight. With full details on this big decision from the Supreme Court I'm George Stephanopoulos in New York. This has been a special. For me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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