Shelby County took its challenge of the Voting Rights Act to the U.S. Supreme Court today, asking the justices to declare part of the 1965 law an unfair burden on states such as Alabama where the federal government still oversees elections for evidence of racial discrimination. Shelby County is appealing two lower court decisions that upheld the constitutionality of the landmark civil rights-era law. If the Supreme Court justices agree to accept the case, they’ll schedule it for oral arguments sometime after they return in October, and it would be one of the highest-profile cases of the court’s 2012-13 term.
“This case presents the Supreme Court with an opportunity to strike down an outdated and unnecessary portion of the Voting Rights Act that punishes some states for voting transgressions that are long gone,” said Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation. “It makes no sense today that Alabama, Virginia, and Arizona are subject to federal oversight regarding elections while Arkansas, West Virginia, and New Mexico are not.” Shelby County originally sued the Justice Department two years ago, and Blum’s nonprofit is paying the legal bills on the county’s behalf.