At stake is the level of the federal government’s oversight in election laws as it relates to racial impact at the local level, particularly in the South.
The court on Friday accepted the case of Shelby County Ala. vs. Holder. In this case, a town in Alabama sought to change its voting laws without federal review. For decades, the signature provision of the Voting Rights Act prevented states and municipalities with a history of racial discrimination from changing their election laws.
Civil rights leaders have long contended that there have been patterns of discrimination in several states and municipalities and that the voting rights of minorities should be protected by the federal government.
Oversight by the federal government has been in place since the civil rights movement. Under Section 5 of the law, nine states and a number of municipalities are barred from changing their voting procedures without approval from the Justice Department or a special federal court. That section has helped minorities to vote and to win elections.
This is the second major case involving race that the court has accepted during the current term. In October, the nine justices heard a challenge to the University of Texas’ admissions policy that could redefine or eliminate the use of affirmative action in higher education.
Passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was most recently extended in 2006 and signed with fanfare by President George W. Bush.
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(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)