Many are expecting the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a ruling this month on Shelby County’s challenge of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Section 5 “preclearance” provisions. In the case known as Shelby County V. Holder, lawyers representing Shelby County government are attempting to declare parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional as they pertain to 16 states including Alabama that need federal permission for changes in elections. Lawyers representing Shelby County, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 27 in the case.
“Everybody on both sides of the issue when the cause was argued to the court had assumed the decision would come down at the end of June,” Shelby County Attorney Butch Ellis said. “I don’t think it’s any surprise to anybody on either side this would be the time for the decision.”
Shelby County and other advocates supporting the arguments against the Section 5 requirements contend the mandates are no longer necessary with progress made to eliminate discrimination at the polls. Others fighting to keep Section 5 have argued the protections remain necessary with Congress reauthorizing the provisions in 2006.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund notes Section 5 “requires states and jurisdictions with some of the worst histories of voting discrimination, such as Alabama, to have all voting changes reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice or the D.C. District Court to ensure they are free from discrimination.”