A panel of three federal appellate judges will hear oral arguments Jan. 19 in an Alabama-based case about the constitutionality of key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Shelby County case is a likely contender for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit whether certain parts of the country should continue to have their elections supervised by the U.S. Justice Department for signs of racial discrimination. All or part of 16 states, including Alabama, have to submit their election-related changes for approval.
U.S. District Judge John Bates last month sided with the Justice Department and upheld the landmark voting rights law that Congress in 2006 agreed to extend for another 25 years. It is Shelby County’s appeal of that decision that is going before the three-judge panel, which is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shelby County sued the federal government last year, arguing that the law is outdated and had become a burden to local and state governments that are no longer a threat to the rights of minority voters. Bates disagreed and said Congress found enough evidence of discrimination in voting procedures to justify extending the law.
The three judges assigned to hear the appeal are U.S. Circuit Judges David Tatel, appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton; Thomas Griffith, appointed in 1995 by President George W. Bush; and Stephen Williams, appointed in 1986 by President Reagan.