Re-examining the Voting Rights Act

Updated
AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

For almost 50 years the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was considered one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history. Today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in this key voting rights case to consider whether the law’s methods are still constitutional.

While the case has been upheld five times by the court, the Shelby County v. Holder case may be the biggest threat to the law yet.  The current case questions the law’s key provisions: Section 5 which requires some states that had a history of voting discrimination to prove that any proposed election-law change would not discriminate against minority voters. This includes things like redistricting or moving polling locations.  To make those changes districts with a history of discrimination needs permission by a federal court or the Justice Department.  At the time of passage, discrimination in parts of the old South was rampant.  Nine full states plus portions of seven others are impacted by the law.

Opponents say the Voting Rights Act is an outdated infringement on state sovereignty. They also site major progress on racial equality since the law was passed by President Johnson. Plus, the law still relies on election data from 1972.

We will have full coverage of the Supreme Court today at 3:10 p.m. with a live update from NBC’s Pete Williams who will be inside the high court for arguments.

Re-examining the Voting Rights Act

Updated