The law’s challengers say the reelection of the nation’s first African American president is proof that the nation has moved beyond the racial divisions that threatened the voting progress, especially in the South, in previous decades.
The law “is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp,” said Edward P. Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a small legal foundation that helped organize the suit.
Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, pointed to the role the law played in the recent election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.
“In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures,” said Debo P. Adegbile, the acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the law, expected in June, could reshape how elections are conducted.
The case concerns Section 5 of the law, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.
Congress has extended the preclearance requirement every time the issue has been raised but is willing to revisit the issue once more. The requirement affects nine states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia – and scores of counties and municipalities in other states.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has been skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.
“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South. Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”
For more on this development, please click the New York Times article here.