Court to tackle key voting rights provision
November 9th, 2012
03:29 PM ET

Court to tackle key voting rights provision

The Supreme Court agreed today to decide whether the key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be scrapped, amid arguments it is a constitutionally unnecessary vestige of the civil rights era.

Known as Section 5, the provision gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" by federal authorities in Washington.

The provision was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for 25 more years. This move prompted a lawsuit by officials in Shelby County, Alabama, who argued that the monitoring was overly burdensome and unwarranted.

The case could be one of the biggest the justices tackle this term, potentially offering a social, political and legal barometer on the progress of civil rights in the United States - and the justices take on the level of national vigilance still needed to ensure that minorities have equal access in the election process.

While the high court announced this week its intention to take up the issue, oral arguments - and, after that, a decision - won't come until next year.

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Supreme Court
soundoff (287 Responses)
  1. D

    ...Alabama...poor Alabama..this is clearly an example of why we need to invest more in the Education system...first off...a Democracy means 1 man = 1 vote...any rational that detracts from that simple equation is obscuring the integrity of the process...secondly, the law was put in place in the first place because of States like Alabama that routinely harrassed, suppressed and denied people access to the Voting it might be old...but given the performance and efforts of the GOP in this last cycle still clearly necessary..finally, life has a way of purging the obsolete..and its clear the proponents of this measure have yet to realize their 15 mins are up...the republicans/conservatism et al is now obsolete

    November 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1234

      All fine and good, but, has anybody been following the stuff going on along Euphrates River and the book of revelations in Bible. People get ready!

      November 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigfoot

      "Alabam'.....You've got the rest of the nation to help you along.
      Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track".....

      November 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Obsolete? 48% of the vote makes republicans obsolete? Hmm. Interesting. So were the democrats obsolete in 2010 when they lost the house? Get a grip. Conservatism is the only thing driving our country forward. You don't have to agree with us, but show some respect. We are all working toward the same ends. Freedom, prosperity, and a strong future for all Americans.

      November 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • nofluer

      "One man – one vote" and the left-overs are applied to the Democrat's total.

      November 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • 007

      Unless you are talking about places like Illinois where one dead man = one vote or one non-existent man = one vote or a cartoon character = one vote. There are bigger problems then Alabama

      November 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      "Democracy means 1 man = 1 vote...any rational that detracts from that simple equation is obscuring the integrity of the process..." I completely agree. So, the Electorial college needs to be abolished because the vote of the citizens is all just a sham anyway.

      November 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • DixT

      This presidential election very clearly proves that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 really is not needed! The ONLY people "disenfranchised" in the 2012 election WAS OUR MILITARY!!! Of Course, the Department of Justice has not even commented on this injustice-because AG Holder stated that as AG he was going to concentrate only on "the civil rights of minorities (Dec., 2010). The Affirmative Action Law is being re-visited by SCOTUS also-only this time lawyers for minorities are saying the law is still needed, but this time it's "because minorities who come from more affluent homes should also have "minority preference," ahead of all other students entering college! (I don't think Affirmative Action is going to pass this time. It became law so that "low-income" minority students could not be discriminated against, but now they want to INCLUDE minority students from "affluent homes" to have those same protections under Affirmative Action.) NOT NEEDED!

      November 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JK221

      R.I.P. GOP

      November 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • GGinBhamAL

      Alabama didn't and doesn't have any of the "voter suppression" issues seen in other states. Why should this act be imposed on a few states based on conditions that no longer exist? There are other states with much worse recent histories. Either apply the law to every state, abolish the law, or re-write it so that it is appropriate for the 21st century.

      November 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • HELLO

      Were not suppose to be a democracy where suppose to be a republic. I pledge alligance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic!!!!!! for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

      November 9, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Margaret

    We Americans talk a lot about voting, and we talk about our patriotism, and how much we love this country. But when election day comes we have a terrible record for voting. Everyone wants to complain how awful the president and congress are, but where were you on election day. I was there, I voted and I worked the election, and if a lot of older people who can barely lift a package of ballots can do it, what about the rest of you? In our state we are always looking for people to work election day. You might find it real eye opening. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. It is a long day.

    November 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Margo


      November 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric1976

      Don't vote=don't complain!

      November 9, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. EJ

    Those state officials who choose to practice voter suppression are simply disgusting. They get in front cameras and put on a show praising their war heroes. Do they realize those war heroes are some of the same people who standing in those lines for hours, some of the same people whose rights they are seeking to violate...disgusting

    November 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mitsu

    do not touch it, just a prime example of what happened November 6, 2012 in a lot of states, Voter Suppression as it never has been before.

    November 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MarkinFL

    Wow, I think the last couple of elections have shown that there is still quite a long way to go before we can safely assume that changes to voting rules are for strictly practical reasons. Just the sheer number of lawsuits this year alone make it clear that we a have a long way to go..

    November 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Name*Rick

    Keep the Voting Rights Act as is! I was involved intimately with Voter Assistance during the 2012 Elections and I witnessed many efforts to suppress the participation of selected voters

    November 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Barb

    Given all the voter suppression attempts, especially in battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, I'd say we need more involvement, not less. With partisan leaders in certain states having no reservations about trying to limit voter access and turnout, I don't think voting laws should be left entirely to the states. The U.S. should be above such tactics; instead, we lag behind other countries who have implemented much better practices. It's shameful.

    November 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. geroge

    I vote by mail. It's eaiser;and you have plenty of time to go over the every detail. It doesn't get easier than that.

    November 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ArthurP

    The United States need to create an independent federal agency to run all federal elections. You know, like they do in all other first world countries.

    November 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Margo

      The republicans would call big government!

      November 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. R.U. Kidding

    After seeing recent efforts at voter suppression it's clear this is still necessary.

    November 9, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ells

    It's simple.
    One procedure for voting and it should apply to all states.
    Prove you're a citizen by showing your BC or Naturaization, driver's license or ID car to verify where you reside. Each and every state. No early voting. If you're out of country, or out of town, you receive your absentee ballot and then send it in.
    Too much time, effort and monetary waste involved in a process that was meant to be swift, accurate and secure.

    November 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brian

    We had to fight a civil war because the Supreme Court supported slavery. Slavery is also "burdensome."

    November 9, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gradschooldude

    More importantly the US should now move to creating an arms-length federal elections agency that sets country wide standards and directives for the runnign of elections. State by state determination of election rules and implementation is a threat to democracy.

    November 9, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. FPSC

    The Voting Rights Act was obviously passed with good intentions, namely to make sure that black American citizens in the south can get to cast their vote. All well and good but it's obvious that today, it's being abused by Democrats for the purpose of getting as many illegal aliens voting as possible. What other country would ever tolearate a massive block of hostile foreigners voting in its elections? Mexico certainly wouldn't.

    November 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin

    "offering a... barometer on the progress of civil rights in the United States"

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't the United States just re-elect a black man President? Is that not an adequate "barometer"?

    November 9, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
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