High court ruling removes Louisiana from preclearance

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Changes to Louisiana's voting laws, election districts and precinct locations no longer need federal approval

before taking effect, under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Tuesday that stopped enforcement of one piece of the Voting Rights

Act.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler said the 5-4

decision means Louisiana doesn't have to follow a "preclearance"

requirement

mandated in the 1965 law, unless Congress redesigns the formula

that determines which states and municipalities must submit

election changes.

The Supreme Court didn't strike down the

pre-clearance rule itself. The justices invalidated the formula that has

required

mainly Southern states to get Washington's approval for voting

laws, saying it does not account for racial progress and societal

changes across the country.

Gov. Bobby Jindal applauded the high court's ruling.

"The court recognized that states can fairly design our own maps and run our own elections without the federal government.

The ruling says that all states and all people should be treated equally," Jindal, a Republican, said in a statement.

Louisiana was one of nine states, along with

local areas in six other states, whose election maps and voting laws

required

review from the U.S. Justice Department before they could take

effect, to ensure the laws were free of discrimination in places

with a history of inequitable treatment of blacks or other

minorities.

Implications of the court ruling likely won't be immediately noticeable in Louisiana.

State lawmakers already have redrawn U.S.

House, legislative and education board districts after the latest

census, and those

maps received clearance from the Justice Department in 2011. Those

district maps were expected to govern state elections for

a decade, until the next federal census data is released.

Schedler said only a handful of

municipalities and local school boards were awaiting approval for their

elected district redesigns

and now won't need Justice Department clearance.

But the secretary of state's office will

feel the impact of the change quickly. The office won't have to get

federal preclearance

of routine changes to voting precincts and registration forms or

other minor election adjustments.

"Changing a precinct from one side of the street to the other, we had to get preclearance," Schedler said.

Schedler, a Republican, supported removal of the preclearance requirement, saying Louisiana has made significant strides since

the Voting Rights Act was passed.

"I've been saying for some time that I

thought it was time for the Supreme Court to review it because the data

was so stale,

50 years old. Things have changed," Schedler said. "Louisiana

truly has changed from 1965, and I'm fully committed to ensuring

that trend continues."

The leader of the Louisiana Democratic Party, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, issued a statement saying she was disappointed

with the court ruling.

"We vow to continue the fight to ensure

every citizen — regardless of race, economic background, age and gender —

has equal

access to the ballot box. There is nothing more American than the

act of voting, and we must remember how hard those who went

before us fought to make sure all Americans can exercise this

right."

Schedler said while Congress can reconsider the issue of who should be subject to preclearance, he's not necessarily expecting

Congress to come up with a new formula soon, if at all, because of Washington gridlock.

"Does Congress revisit it, and if they do, are they ever able in that mess up there to agree on what it should be?" Schedler

said.