On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to prevent discrimination in voting.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, released the following statement in response to the decision:

“I am incredibly disappointed in this morning’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. We need to protect essential rights, especially when people are headed to the polls, and the ruling issued this morning weakens that effort. Clearly, Congress must now act quickly to strengthen this vital legislation — as we have done before — to ensure that all Americans can exercise their right to vote without discriminatory barriers in their way.

“For decades minorities in large parts of the country had been disenfranchised in the voting process and the Voting Rights Act was adopted to address that problem. Provisions in the law that ensure state officials cannot adopt new discriminatory voting procedures — in advance of their adoption — have been critical in curbing the disenfranchisement of voters in areas with a long history of discrimination.

“While today’s ruling is a setback, I hope it will allow us to reflect on how far we’ve come and to rededicate ourselves to the promotion of civil rights for all Americans. We must continue to move forward on voting rights and civil rights, not backward.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of legislation, disallowed discriminatory voting practices and opened the door to make it easier for minorities to vote. In 2006, with wide bipartisan support a Republican-led Congress voted to reauthorize the act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The court found Tuesday morning that while this particular section of the law, which required certain states with a history of discrimination to receive clearance from the federal government prior to implementing any change affecting voting, was still permissible, the maps that designated which localities would be affected by this oversight were not, essentially rendering the pre-clearance option inoperable.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.