Sunday, November 11, 2012

As minorities gain electoral power, Supreme Court asks: Why the Voting Rights Act?

After minorities played a major role in reelecting President Obama, the US Supreme Court agrees to decide whether the goals of the 1965 Voting Rights Act?in reforming the South have been met.

By Patrik Jonsson,?Staff writer / November 10, 2012

Assistant Poll Manager Kim Abenatha helps voters line up at the Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. on Election Day.

Kent D. Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP


Is it time, after nearly 50 years, to gut the Voting Rights Act?

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That?s the question the US Supreme Court is poised to take up in a case out of Shelby County, Alabama, in which local officials, backed by a bevy of Southern states, will argue that federal oversight of polling stations primarily in the former Confederacy is no longer necessary, and, is, in fact, itself discriminatory.

And while many Americans still believe the Voting Rights Act is important, those who want to put voting affairs back into the exclusive hands of state and local election officials have an unprecedented argument for abolishing it: The reelection of President Barack Obama.

True, Obama lost most of the so-called Section 5 districts and states, and it?s in the South that the Department of Justice cited the Voting Rights Act in challenging new voter ID laws that US Attorney General Eric Holder likened to Jim Crow era ?poll taxes.?

Yet the election postmortems from both sides of the political spectrum have focused on a simple reality: Minorities in the US have enough voting freedoms to determine the leader of the free world, as they helped to do on Tuesday when blacks and Hispanics, especially, were seen as key elements in Obama?s decisive reelection.

That?s thrown the GOP into an ideological civil war over whether to drop its heavily anti-immigrant tone and consider full amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in the US.

RECOMMENDED:?How much do you know about the US Constitution? A quiz.

Shelby County wants the Supreme Court to declare Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional after the Justice Department nullified a local redistricting effort that attorneys argued played a role in the sole black incumbent being defeated.

The Supreme Court hinted earlier this year that it saw ?serious constitutional problems? with the Voting Rights Act after it sent a contested Texas electoral map to a lower court without ruling on it. Given that and other recent hints from the court, legal experts widely believe that the conservative-leaning court is ready to make a decisive ruling on the future of the Voting Rights Act.


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