The 1965 Voting Rights Act included a provision that requires certain states, counties, and localities, most but not all in the South, to get permission from the Department of Justice before changing laws or rules related to voting and elections.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court, at least temporarily, rendered that provision inactive, though they did not rule it inherently unconstitutional. In particular, the Court said that the way it was determined which jurisdictions would be subject to pre-clearance was impermissible because it was based on 50-year old information. Pre-clearance could remain in force if Congress created a new formula for determining which areas should be subject to it. It is unlikely that such a formula will be coming out of the House anytime soon, though one can imagine the Congressional Black Caucus screaming "racist Republicans!" from every corner...as if anyone but other CBC members are listening to them.
The law, because it put the burden of proof on those who want the change to show that it does not discriminate, allowed the DOJ to block almost anything it wanted to. And the DOJ, especially the corrupt Obama DOJ, has done just that, blocking voter ID laws as well as preventing the town of Kinston, NC from switching to non-partisan elections.
The Kinston story makes clear how government was using the pre-clearance rule to help Democrats, again not a surprise from this DOJ which is overtly partisan and racist.
In short, Kinston, which is about 2/3 black, voted by nearly a 2-to-1 margin to go to non-partisan local elections, i.e. where the candidates are identified by name but not by political party. Non-partisan elections are increasingly common at city and county levels across the country.
Again, keep in mind that a town which is 2-to-1 black voted 2-to-1 for the change.
In 2009, the horrendous Loretta King (who also stopped the prosecution of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia after their voter intimidation efforts aimed against whites), thankfully no longer at the DOJ, denied the change, arguing that if a candidate wasn't listed on a ballot by party, i.e. as a Democrat, blacks would not know whom to vote for.
In 2012, laughably claiming that they had just learned that Kinston's voting-age population was 65 percent, the DOJ removed their objection to Kinston's voting change. In fact, they were probably just trying to avoid having to defend King's action in court since what King was effectively saying is that blacks were not smart enough to choose a candidate by any method other than simply seeing a party affiliation on a ballot. If I were a black voter in Kinston, I would have been deeply offended by King's implicit racism. (Ms. King is black.)
For now, pre-clearance is dead. But it may, zombie-like, return to life as politicians of both parties fear being called racist, whereas what is really racist is the way the federal government has abused pre-clearance in recent years. With Republicans like Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) arguing that pre-clearance is constitutional and having long supported implicit "reverse racism" (a term I don't like because it suggests that racism can only exist if the victim isn't white), it's hard to be optimistic that pre-clearance will stay dead.
For those on the left who will hyperventilate about today's ruling, it should be emphasized, as the Court did, that discrimination remains illegal. This is just about whether the federal government should have the power to prevent, in advance, any change to voting laws that the local jurisdiction can't absolutely prove won't have any disparate impact across racial groups. Furthermore, Section II of the Act allows federal courts to deal with all of the same issues, rather than having them go through they hyper-political DOJ.