The bitter infighting of the 2012 election season may be over, but a pivotal battle for American civil liberties is far from finished. That there are efforts under way to disenfranchise entire communities by blocking millions of U.S. citizens from having their say in the political arena is no news to anyone following the election last year. Comedians like Sarah Silverman spoke out against it, and we covered it extensively here inside “The War Room.”
Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear the first oral arguments against Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which for more than five decades has prevented attempts “to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Section 5 of the VRA was the basis for striking down, for example, the controversial South Carolina voter ID law that limited citizens with “reasonable impediments” to the specific forms of ID the law stipulated. Is
Shelby County, Ala., is responsible for challenging the act, saying that it’s been almost 50 years since it passed and that we now have an African American president, so states like Alabama should no longer be singled out.
“Shelby County … is the last place in the world that has standing to make that argument,” says Doug Kendall, founder and president of the Constitutional Accountability Center. “They’ve been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act innumerable times. The basic response is that while things may have gotten better in the South, there’s still a significant body of evidence, both developed by Congress in 2006 and developed over the course of the 2012 election, that voter suppression efforts targeting minorities and having a disproportionate impact on minorities are alive and well out there.”
But the challenge of the act rages on. The Nation reports how conservative support of the bill has dissolved in recent years:
The bipartisan consensus that supported the VRA for nearly 50 years has collapsed, and conservatives are challenging the law as never before. Last November, three days after a presidential election in which voter suppression played a starring role, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Section 5 of the VRA, which compels parts or all of sixteen states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to clear election-related changes with the federal government. The case will be heard on February 27.
Is the challenge to Section 5 just another piece of the GOP’s calculated mission to deprive largely left-leaning groups and minorities of their ability to vote? And how will the ruling pan out?