Voting districts designed to increase the chances of electing minority candidates, a fixture in the South, could be dismantled if the Supreme Court invalidates a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The court heard oral arguments on Wednesday in a case that challenges Section 5 of the 1965 landmark law. The section bars all or part of 16 states from making any changes to their election procedures without first proving the changes wouldn’t discriminate against minority voters. A ruling is expected in a few months. If the court rules Section 5 is no longer necessary, states, counties and local governments subject to the provision would not have to submit new election maps to the Justice Department for review. Civil rights advocates say that would open the door for jurisdictions like many in the South – where blacks tend to vote for black candidates and whites tend to vote for white candidates – to redraw districts in a way that makes it harder for minorities to get elected. “There is no doubt in my mind that if there is no Section 5, the eight black (state) Senate districts in Alabama would disappear in the very near future,” said state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, who holds one of those eight seats.
Because the Voting Rights Act requires that minorities have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice, states have created a few congressional districts with significant percentages of minority voters, and most have elected minority candidates.
“Section 5 has been an important protection for these opportunity districts,” said Debo Adegbile, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
If Section 5 disappeared, he said, “many of these districts would be attacked and the hands on the clock would start winding backwards and we would see lower minority representation.”
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia mentioned majority-black districts during Wednesday’s arguments.
“There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now,” Scalia said.
Full Article: Minority Districts at Issue in Voting Rights Case | wltx.com.