The Voting Rights Act has been the law of the land for almost half a century, helping to guarantee that minorities are not denied the right to vote. Alabama’s Shelby County recently challenged the law in the Supreme Court.
The Voting Rights Act has increasingly been the target of attack by those who say it is outdated, discriminatory against Southern states, and unconstitutional. The case deals specifically with Section 5 of the act, which freezes election practices or procedures in certain states until the new procedures have been subjected to review.
As of 2009, the Supreme Court has stated its uncertainty of the continued need for Section 5. When the court considered one Texas jurisdiction’s right to “bail out” of Section 5 pre-clearance, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that “these federalism costs have caused Members of this Court to express serious misgivings about the constitutionality of Section 5.”
Since then, the landscape of voting laws nationwide has changed intensely. Defenders of Section 5 argue that dozens of controversial matters, such as the voter ID laws passed in states across the country, prove Section 5’s continued relevance.
Myrna Perez, a voting rights expert with the Brennan center for Justice, states that “If the court strikes down Section 5, I think it would be an extraordinary interference with a constitutionally determined province of Congress.”