National: Conservative Justices Voice Skepticism on Voting Law |

A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be in peril, judging from tough questioning on Wednesday from the Supreme Court’s more conservative members. Justice Antonin Scalia called the provision, which requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal permission before changing voting procedures, a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked a skeptical question about whether people in the South are more racist than those in the North. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked how much longer Alabama must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.” The court’s more liberal members, citing data and history, said Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions. “It’s an old disease,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said of efforts to thwart minority voting. “It’s gotten a lot better. A lot better. But it’s still there.” Four of the nine-member court’s five more conservative members asked largely skeptical questions about the law. The fifth, Justice Clarence Thomas, did not ask a question, as is typical.

National: Supreme Court Likely to Strike Down the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 | The Daily Beast

Will the Supreme Court strike down what President Lyndon Johnson called “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom”? That is the question before the justices on Wednesday, when they will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Enacted in 1965, it was designed to end, once and for all, the long, ugly history of racial discrimination in voting in America. The law, widely recognized as a remarkable success, was reauthorized in 2006 in a near-unanimous vote in Congress. As Americans have come to recognize, however, the only votes that really matter are those of the justices of the Supreme Court. And there’s every reason to suspect that five justices will vote to strike down one of the law’s most important provisions. That provision is known as “Section 5,” and it requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to obtain the approval of the Department of Justice or a special court in Washington, D.C., before adopting any change in their voting rules. If one of these covered jurisdictions wants to move away from single-member districts to an at-large election, as several tried to do to reduce the voting strength of racial minorities, or change the voting hours, that change has to be “precleared” before going into effect.

National: Key provisions of Voting Rights Act appear in jeopardy after high court argument | NBC

Central parts of an election law dating back to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the Voting Rights Act, appeared to be in jeopardy Wednesday after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to them. NBC’s Pete Williams reported after the oral argument, “I think it’s a safe prediction to say that the Voting Rights Act, as it now stands, is not going to survive. The question is: how far will the Supreme Court go in striking parts of it down?” Williams said what seemed to concern a majority of the justices was “the fact that the law is too backward looking.” The justices were weighing an appeal from Shelby County, Ala., asking the court to find that Congress exceeded its power when it renewed the two key sections of the law in 2006. Under Section 5 of the law, nine states, mostly in the South, but also including Alaska and Arizona, as well as dozens of counties, townships, cities, and elected boards in other states, must get permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington for any change in voting procedures, no matter how small, that they seek to make.

National: What’s at Stake in the Voting Rights Act Battle | The Atlantic

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a case challenging the Voting Rights Act of 1968, civil rights advocates are rising to support the anti-discriminatory law. But why? This hardly the first time that the 45-year-old law has been challenged. It’s been just four years since the country’s highest court stopped just short of striking down the Voting Rights Act altogether, choosing instead to make a decision on narrow grounds. On Wednesday, the justices will get a second chance in the case of Shelby County v. Holder — Shelby County is in Alabama — which seeks to determine if Congress overstepped its authority when it passed the 25-year-long renewal of the Voting Rights Act passed by Congress is 2006. In other words, the case should decide whether or not the Voting Rights Act is constitutional. This is a big deal for a lot of people.

National: Supreme Court to weigh ongoing validity of voting rights law | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider whether to strike down a key provision of a federal law designed to protect minority voters. During the one-hour oral argument, the nine justices will hear the claim made by officials from Shelby County, Alabama, that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed. The key issue is whether Congress has the authority under the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote, to require some states, mainly in the South, to show that any proposed election-law change would not discriminate against minority voters. Conservative activists and local officials in some jurisdictions covered by the provision have long complained about it, saying that it is an unacceptable infringement on state sovereignty.

National: Voting Rights Act: Is major portion outdated? Supreme Court to hear arguments |

It is recognized as the most powerful and effective civil rights law in American history. So why is the US Supreme Court being asked to declare a major portion of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional? On Wednesday, the high court is set to take up a legal challenge filed on behalf of Alabama’s Shelby County, alleging that Congress overstepped its authority when it voted overwhelmingly in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) for 25 years. At issue in the case, Shelby County v. Eric Holder (12-96), is a section of the law that gives the federal government extraordinary power to prevent state and local governments from discriminating against minority voters by undercutting their political clout in elections. In 1965, when the VRA was first enacted, many states, particularly in the Deep South, were actively working to prevent black and other minority voters from effectively exercising their right to vote. They had done it for decades through threats of violence, poll taxes, and literacy tests. Congress outlawed those blatant tactics, but the discrimination continued in more creative and subtle ways.

National: Supreme Court raises doubts about Voting Rights Act | USAToday

Conservative justices who hold a slim majority on the Supreme Court expressed grave doubts Wednesday that the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement — remains constitutional nearly a half century later. The justices who could be the swing votes in an eventual ruling suggested that an outdated formula built into the law now discriminates against the South, much as Southern states discriminated against black voters by erecting barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests. “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who argued that the law should remain intact. Roberts noted that Massachusetts has the worst black turnout in elections when compared with whites — and Mississippi the best. Although the more liberal justices defended Section 5 of the law, which requires all or parts of 16 states to clear any voting changes with the federal government, at times the die appeared cast inside the marble courtroom. That could mean a decision by June rendering that provision unconstitutional or sending it back to Congress.

Editorials: America Is One Step Closer to Neutering the Voting Rights Act | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic

You could say that the call was made even before the polls closed. It was made with great clarity before the end of the scheduled hour of oral argument at the United States Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holderby the folks at Scotusblog, the most popular and prestigious website covering the Court. It was presented in 140 characters or less to the world in the form of a Tweet: “Update from argument: VRA Sec 5 almost sure to be invalidated 5-4. Congress will have to reconsider the preclearance formula.” There are some instances where oral argument is useless in determining how a case will turn out. This does not figure to be one of those times. There look to be five votes to strike down the section of the law that requires officials in some jurisdictions to prove to the satisfaction of federal officials that their voting laws and redistricting rules do not discriminate against minority voters. We can be reasonably certain about this not just because of the questions and the answers offered up Wednesday but also because of the history of the Roberts Court and the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts, who campaigned against the law 30 years ago as a young Justice Department official, isn’t going to save the statute the way he saved the Affordable Care Act last June. Justice Clarence Thomas declared four years ago that it had to go. Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday declared the most successful anti-discrimination law in American history the perpetuation of a “racial entitlement.” Justice Samuel Alito echoed on Wednesday many of the same concerns he expressed during argument four years ago in a Section 5 case out of Texas. That’s four votes. The fifth would be Justice Anthony Kennedy, the least conservative of the five Republican appointees. Lyle Denniston, a reporter who has daily covered the Supreme Court since before the passage of the 1965 law, wrote Wednesday of some wiggle room he perceived in a comment Justice Kennedy made about how the plaintiff in the case — Shelby County, Alabama — may not be in proper position to challenge Section 5 (or the preclearance coverage formula of Section 4) because of its past record of voting discrimination.

Editorials: Argument recap: Voting law in peril — maybe | SCOTUSblog

Sometimes, in a Supreme Court argument, a single phrase can speak volumes.  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the one member of the Court who bore the most watching because the other eight seemed clearly to divide evenly, used the phrase “trusteeship of the United States government” as a shorthand way to describe how he views the regime set up by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 works.  Of course, he meant it as a denunciation. If Kennedy believes that there is no way to justify any longer that kind of oversight of nine states that have to do the most to obey the 1965 law, that law may well be doomed.   But it also was Kennedy who left the impression that he might be willing to go along with a potential way to short-circuit the case of Shelby County v. Holder, and allow the law to survive for some time more. The argument Wednesday in one of the most important cases of the Court’s current Term — a hearing that ran seventeen minutes longer than the allotted hour — left no doubt that four of the Justices (and maybe Kennedy with them) are just as troubled as they were four years ago when they last lambasted the selective enforcement approach mandated by history’s most successful civil rights law.  Equally, there was no doubt that four Justices — including the two newest members — were prepared to let Congress have its way with the twenty-five-year extension of the law.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Act’s work isn’t finished | The Washington Post

The 1965 Voting Rights Act remains one of this country’s foremost accomplishments. Constitutional amendments following the Civil War barred states and localities from abridging the right to vote on the basis of race, yet for the better part of a century, white racists managed to stay a step ahead of the federal government’s enforcement of these protections. The Voting Rights Act was designed to stamp out the varied and shifting strategies local officials used to prevent African Americans from voting. On Wednesday the Supreme Court will consider whether the Voting Rights Act has worked so well that its toughest rules have now outlived their time. Provisions of the act require certain states and localities with a history of discrimination to clear any proposed change in voting rules with the federal government. Shelby County, Alabama, claims that immense progress since 1965 in rooting out official discrimination renders pre-clearance an unwarranted burden on those jurisdictions that must comply, unjustifiably subjecting some states to unequal treatment and violating their constitutional prerogative to regulate elections within their borders.

Editorials: Supreme Court should uphold Voting Rights Act | Baltimore Sun

Much has changed in America since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was first approved, and we can’t blame those living in the 16 states that must get approval from the Justice Department or a federal court in order to revise their election laws for feeling the weight of history. The Deep South of the 21st century is not the same as the days of poll taxes, literacy tests and assassinated civil rights leaders. But how different is it today from seven years ago? That’s when Congress last renewed one of this country’s most important pieces of civil rights legislation — including the section that places this burden of proof on states with long histories of suppressing minority voters. It wasn’t even close, nor was it partisan. The House and Senate voted 390 to 33 and 98 to 0, respectively, to extend the law by another 25 years, the fourth extension since 1965. More than anything else, that fact should weigh heavily as the Supreme Court on Wednesday considers the case brought by Shelby County, Ala., where officials regard the pre-clearance requirement as an unconstitutional burden. Courts have upheld the Voting Rights Act numerous times over the years (including in the Shelby case), so surely such an argument must turn on the claim that the basic patterns of life in places like Alabama have changed completely. Yet couldn’t the Congress of 2006 somehow have picked up on that?

Alabama: Alabama, birthplace of the Voting Rights Act, may be its final resting place, too | MSNBC

If the Supreme Court strikes down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act this year, it will largely come as the result of events that began in Shelby County, Alabama, where a disputed city council election has thrown into doubt the future of a landmark law that stops state and local governments from making it hard for minorities to vote. Long-time Shelby County resident Frank Ellis is the attorney who brought the suit, which the Supreme Court will hear Wednesday. In his argument:
“The South has changed, it is not the same as it was in 1964…The whole country has changed, we are a dynamic society, not just in Alabama, but everywhere.” Indeed, one need look no further than the results of the most recent national elections for evidence of just how “dynamic” a society this is. For some reason, Chief Justice Roberts decided only a few days after the president’s re-election to revisit an issue he had ducked just three years earlier in a case which bears the imposing title, “Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No.1 vs. Holder.”

Arizona: Clean Elections consolidation bill advances | Arizona Daily Star

The Citizen’s Clean Election Commission would be consolidated with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and take on added responsibilities for overseeing election law violations and lobbyist reporting under a bill approved by a Senate committee Tuesday. The proposal approved by the Appropriations Committee would allow the voter-created commission to still do its work independently but add some responsibilities and bring operational efficiencies, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said. The bill also would restore a so-called “tax checkoff” included in the law creating the commission that was eliminated by the Legislature last year. The bill would require any extra money the commission has to be turned over to Bennett’s office to help pay for replacing election equipment. The state needs millions of dollars to buy new voting equipment in the coming years.

Michigan: Miller blasts Obama’s plan for election standards | Daily Tribune

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, relying upon her experiences as Michigan secretary of state, is denouncing President Obama’s plan to form a national election commission which will seek solutions to long waits for voters on Election Day. “That’s about the last thing we need is another election commission,” Miller said, asserting that reforms should be left to the states that had voting problems last fall. In his State of the Union address, Obama announced the creation of a commission to set national standards and he pointed to the plight of 102-year-old Desline Victor of Miami who waited six hours to cast her ballot in November. An estimated 201,000 frustrated Floridians left the polls before voting.

Mississippi: Clarksdale Mayor Candidate Found Dead — First Openly Gay Candidate in Mississippi | TPM

A Mississippi mayoral candidate was found dead Wednesday and the case is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said. Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said the body of 34-year-old Marco McMillian was found on the Mississippi River levee Wednesday at about 10 a.m. The 34-year-old McMillian was running for mayor of Clarksdale, a Blues hub where actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman co-owns a music club with Howard Stovall, a Memphis entertainment executive, and Bill Luckett, who also is running for mayor. Meredith said the body was found between Sherard and Rena Lara and was sent to Jackson for an autopsy. He declined to provide further details or speculate on the cause of death. The sheriff’s office said Wednesday in a news release on its Facebook page that a person of interest was in custody, but had not been formally charged.

Mississippi: Senate approves $695K for secretary of state to defend voter ID plan | The Clarion-Ledger

The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday approved $695,000 for the secretary of state to defend a proposed voter identification law, and the budget bill moves on to the House for more work. The secretary of state’s overall $13 million budget for fiscal 2014 was rejected last week, but many senators were out of the chamber at the time. During a second vote Tuesday with better attendance, Senate Bill 2901 passed. Mississippi needs federal approval for any changes to election laws, to ensure that the changes don’t dilute minority voting strength. If the Justice Department rejects the voter ID proposal, as many expect, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann could ask federal judges to approve it.

North Dakota: Grand Forks activist loses appeal against state election official | Grand Forks Herald

A Grand Forks political activist who accused the secretary of state of discriminating against third-party candidates has lost his appeal before the state Supreme Court. Roland Riemers, a Libertarian who ran for governor last fall, lost his case in Grand Forks County district court in September. The state’s high court affirmed that ruling in an opinion released Tuesday. The case is Roland Riemers v. Alvin Jaeger, the secretary of state. Essentially, Riemers said the state prevented him from appearing on the November ballot as a Libertarian — he ran as an independent — because of a paperwork error, but did not penalize Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates for a different paperwork error. He wanted their names off the ballot, too.

South Dakota: Bill eliminates absentee voting on Election Day | Rapid City Journal

A bill that would eliminate absentee voting on Election Day is sailing through the Legislature. Currently, walk-up absentee voting is allowed in-person at the courthouse through 3 p.m. on Election Day. The proposal that the House of Representatives is expected to approve today would cut off that type of absentee voting at 5 p.m. on the day before the election. It was approved on a 12-0 vote Tuesday by the House Local Government committee. The Senate previously approved the legislation on a 32-1 vote.

Italy: Beppe Grillo snubs deal with Bersani | BBC

Italian comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, whose Five-Star Movement (M5S) defied expectations to come third in last weekend’s elections, has ruled out a coalition with the centre-left. Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democratic Party (PD) won a majority in the Chamber of Deputies but fell short in the Senate. Mr Grillo told the BBC he expected Mr Bersani to agree a deal with Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL). The inconclusive polls have pushed up borrowing costs for the government. On Wednesday, the Italian treasury sold 4bn euros (£3.45bn) of new 10-year government bonds on the financial markets at a yield of 4.83%, up from 4.17% at its last sale in January, and 2.5bn euros of new five-year bonds at a yield of 3.59%, up from 2.94%.

Editorials: Italy’s election leaves country — and eurozone — on financial high-wire | Louise Cooper/CNN

Brilliant minds across the financial world are still trying to work out the implications of the Italian election result. For the time being, the best answer is that it is probably too soon to tell. After Tuesday’s falls, a little stability has returned to markets, possibly because everyone is still trying to work out what to think. Credit ratings agency Moody’s has warned the election result is negative for Italy — and also negative for other indebted eurozone states. It fears political uncertainty will continue and warns of a “deterioration in the country’s economic prospects or difficulties in implementing reform,” the agency said. For the rest of the eurozone, the result risks “reigniting the euro debt crisis.” Madrid must be looking to Italy with trepidation. If investors decide that Italy is looking risky again and back off from buying its debt, then Spain will be drawn into the firing line too.

Kenya: Intimidation, machetes point to Kenya election violence | Chicago Tribune

Voter intimidation, expulsion threats and a rise in purchases of machetes point to violence at Kenya’s March 4 national election, a coalition of 30 Kenyan civic groups said on Wednesday. The government has promised harsh penalties for those caught inciting ethnic violence as it is anxious to avoid post-election bloodshed like that after the last vote in 2007 that led to indictments by the International Criminal Court. More than 1,200 people were killed and more than 350,000 displaced from their homes when disputes over the results of the presidential vote five years ago broke out, triggering violence.

Zimbabwe: Police ban radios ahead of July elections | Guardian

Police in Zimbabwe have announced a ban on the possession of shortwave radios, saying they are being used to communicate hate speech ahead of next month’s constitutional referendum and elections set to be held in July. Wind-up, solar-powered radios sets have been distributed by NGOs to rural communities, where villagers have established listening clubs to tune in to popular independent stations such as Radio Voice of the People, Studio 7 and SW Radio Africa. The broadcasts are produced by exiled Zimbabwean journalists based in Europe and the US. Zimbabwe has four state-controlled radio stations with a history of supporting President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. Two recently established independent stations are also perceived to be pro-Zanu-PF. There is demand among listeners, especially those supportive of the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), for other viewpoints.

National: Supreme Court to take key voting rights case | Washington Times

The Supreme Court this week will take up a potentially landmark case that could end almost five decades of Justice Department intervention that gives the federal government control over voting decisions in states and localities with a history of discrimination. Shelby County, Ala., is challenging a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires all or parts of 16 states with a history of discrimination in voting to get federal approval before making any changes in the way they hold elections. If successful, the challenge, which the high court will hear Wednesday, would strike down a major legislative tenant of President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights legacy — though it’s one many argue is outdated and unnecessary.

National: Defeating Voting Rights Act Would Give Conservatives A Big Win | TPM

When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday on the Voting Rights Act, opponents will argue that a centerpiece of the law aimed at letting the federal government proactively thwart attempts at voter discrimination has outlived its validity. “The only reason Section 5 was originally justified and upheld by the courts was because of Jim Crow — the unusual circumstances at the time in terms of voter disenfranchisement,” Ilya Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review who filed an amicus brief in the case, told TPM. “I don’t think there’s a way to justify Section 5 anymore.” Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires state and local governments across 16 states — mostly in the South — to seek preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their laws which affect voting. Shapiro said the point of the lawsuit is that residents in each of the covered jurisdictions are being treated unfairly.

National: Will the Supreme Court Lift Political Contribution Limits? | PBS

Alabama businessman and conservative activist Shaun McCutcheon donated $33,088 to 16 candidates during the 2012 election cycle, but he wanted to give much more. Had he not hit Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign contribution limits, McCutcheon said he would have given money to a dozen more candidates and an additional $25,000 to three Republican Party political committees. Did the FEC’s rules violate his First Amendment rights? McCutcheon thought so, and took his case to a lawyer, who in turn, reached out to prominent conservative lawyer James Bopp, Jr. “As it turned out, I already represented the Republican National Committee, and it was their plan to challenge this limit,” said Bopp, who is the intellectual architect behind the landmark 2010 Citizens United case. “So we joined up together.” Last week, both McCutcheon and the RNC got some good news when the when the Supreme Court announced it would hear their case next term.

Editorials: The Roberts Court vs. Voting Rights | David Cole/New York Review of Books

What happens when a Supreme Court ostensibly committed to judicial restraint confronts a long-standing civil rights statute that offends its conservative majority’s sense that law should be colorblind, even if the world is not? That question will be front and center when the Court hears arguments Wednesday in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The provision, known as Section 5, requires nine states, mostly in the South, and select jurisdictions in seven other states, to obtain federal approval for any change in their voting laws. Congress concluded that this was necessary to ensure equal opportunity in voting. But conservatives in some of the southern states have long complained that the law gives the federal government too much power, and now, Shelby County—a largely white suburb of Birmingham, Alabama found guilty of racial discrimination in voting as recently as 2008—has sued the US government to get it annulled. If the Supreme Court majority exercises restraint, it will acknowledge that Section 5 falls within Congress’s constitutionally assigned authority to enforce rights of equal protection and voting. But if the Court chooses to impose its own view of racial justice—according to which laws should be drafted without regard to race, even if race-conscious efforts are needed to forestall discrimination—it will invalidate a core part of one of the country’s signal civil rights laws. The Court has frequently reviewed the Voting Rights Act since its initial enactment, and has until now always upheld it. But this time around, the result could well be different. It shouldn’t be.

Editorials: Who controls Voting Rights? | Richard L. Hasen/The Great Debate (Reuters)

On Wednesday the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder,challenging the constitutionality of a key part of the Voting Rights Act. But in the wide public debate about this case, we are getting to the point where — as election law scholar Pam Karlanhas noted — everything has been said, but not necessarily by everybody. In addition to this Reuters symposium on “If the Court Strikes Down Section 5,” other symposiacommentaries and op-edshave considered whether the act still serves a vital purpose; whether the court should strike it down; and what should replace it if the court rules that Congress went too far in requiring certain states to continue to get federal permission when making changes in any voting rules until 2031. Even President Barack Obama has weighed in, urging the court to keep the act in place. He said the best way to protect voting rights is by having the federal government review voting changes before they can be implemented, to ensure that changes don’t make protected minority groups worse off. So it is worth taking a step back to look at the larger question of why this is a decision for the Supreme Court to make and not the political branches. After all, even back in 1965, Section 5 was “strong medicine.”

Editorials: Judging the Voting Rights Act – The Supreme Court should not substitute its judgment for Congress’ on voting rights | Los Angeles Times

Rightly regarded as one of the most lustrous legacies of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlaws discrimination in voting nationwide, but it also requires that states with a history of denying minorities the right to vote obtain the approval of a federal court or the U.S. Justice Department before changing election procedures. This “preclearance” provision, contained in Section 5 of the act, has been repeatedly reauthorized by Congress — most recently in 2006, when it was extended for another 25 years by margins of 390 to 33 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate. Between 1982 and 2006, the Justice Department used the preclearance process to block the enforcement of more than 2,400 voting changes on the grounds that they would undermine minority voting rights. Yet this proven protection may be on constitutional life support. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case from Alabama that challenges Section 5 and the formula by which nine states, mostly in the South, and parts of seven others (including California) are required to obtain preclearance when they redraw district lines, modify registration procedures or change any other practice that might disadvantage minority voters. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act fear that conservative members of the court — and perhaps not only conservatives — are poised to rule that the law violates the prerogatives of states that no longer practice the sort of blatant discrimination that inspired the original legislation.

Alabama: What Is Alabama’s Problem With the Voting Rights Act? | The Nation

History will repeat itself in the chambers of the Supreme Court this week. The very state where the fight for voting rights reached its critical peak nearly 50 years ago is once again at the center of the dispute over democracy in America. But oddly, the political and legal odds may now be tilting away from civil rights and back toward an era in which the federal government had limited power to protect voters of color in the South from the machinations of local leaders. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday from an Alabama county that is challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That section protects voters of color in sixteen states (some fully covered, some partially), many of which have long brutal histories of denying black Americans their voting rights. It does this by making covered jurisdictions “preclear” election law changes with the federal government before implementation.

Editorials: Alaska state leaders prefer cooked map to protecting Native voters | Shannyn Moore/Anchorage Daily News

The federal Voting Rights Act goes on trial this week. It was enacted in 1965, because some people were working really hard so some other people couldn’t vote (that’s a nice way to say they were “racists”). The federal government finally agreed to make sure that everyone with a constitutional right to vote would be allowed to vote, despite the bigots running state and local governments. In 1975, Alaska’s congressional delegation ensured that we were added to the list of states protected — because Alaska Native voters who didn’t speak or read English were being disenfranchised. Again, in 2006 under Republican rule, the Voting Rights Act was re-authorized by Congress to cover Alaska. Twenty languages spoken by First Alaskans were excluded from the ballot or voting information. Now Shelby County, Ala., is suing to get out from under federal oversight of voting rights. It beat Alaska to the punch. There’s also an Alaska vs. Holder suit pending, filed in August. Our state’s case, which has been stayed, will rise or fall with the decision of the Supreme Court in Shelby vs. Holder.