Voting Rights Act and the South on trial - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Voting Rights Act and the South on trial

Posted: Updated:
Emmitt Coleman, 81, relaxes after voting in Alabama. An Alabama county has taken the Voting Rights Act to the Supreme Court. Emmitt Coleman, 81, relaxes after voting in Alabama. An Alabama county has taken the Voting Rights Act to the Supreme Court.
  • CBS19.tv Web ExclusivesMore>>

  • Web Exclusive: Technology helping house calls make a comeback

    Web Exclusive: Technology helping house calls make a comeback

    Friday, August 1 2014 9:44 AM EDT2014-08-01 13:44:03 GMT
    You know the feeling when you or your child gets sick, it can be really tough to get out of bed and drag yourself to the doctor's office.  In some places now technology is bringing the doctor to you.More >>
    You know the feeling when you or your child gets sick, it can be really tough to get out of bed and drag yourself to the doctor's office.  In some places now technology is bringing the doctor to you.More >>
  • Moms-to-be learn how to be Fit for Two

    Moms-to-be learn how to be Fit for Two

    Thursday, July 31 2014 11:54 PM EDT2014-08-01 03:54:43 GMT
    Exercising during pregnancy may have more benefits than you realize. Research finds it can make labor and delivery easier on your body. There are also benefits for baby. As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise, three times per week enhances the newborn child's brain development.  In this week's Fit City, find out how ETMC is trying to create strong moms and healthy babies with one of its programs. More >>
    Exercising during pregnancy may have more benefits than you realize. Research finds it can make labor and delivery easier on your body. There are also benefits for baby. As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise, three times per week enhances the newborn child's brain development.  In this week's Fit City, find out how ETMC is trying to create strong moms and healthy babies with one of its programs. More >>
  • Web Exclusive: Rob Lowe is getting "sharky" for a TV network

    Web Exclusive: Rob Lowe is getting "sharky" for a TV network

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:45 AM EDT2014-07-31 13:45:11 GMT
    Actor Rob Lowe is lending his comedic talents to the Discovery channel.  In a new promo for Shark Week he throws up chum while riding two sharks.More >>
    Actor Rob Lowe is lending his comedic talents to the Discovery channel.  In a new promo for Shark Week he throws up chum while riding two sharks.More >>

(CNN) -- How much has the South changed?

That's the question at the heart of one of the most important cases the Supreme Court will take up this year.

The case weighs the fate of one of the most important laws in American history: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A century after the Civil War, Congress created that law to give African Americans the right to vote, not just on paper, but in fact.

The key provision was Section 5, which decreed that jurisdictions with histories of discrimination, mostly in the South, had to get Justice Department approval before they changed any aspect of their voting rules, right down to the location of polling places. There is little doubt that, in the years immediately after 1965, the Voting Rights Act achieved a revolution in voting rights for African-Americans in the South. In subsequent years, Congress has reauthorized the law several times, most recently in 2006.

Jeffrey Toobin

Increasingly, covered jurisdictions have found the process of submitting their changes to the Justice Department, which is known as "pre-clearance," as a demeaning anachronism, and Shelby County, Alabama, went to court to argue that the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The court will hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, early next year.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.


The Obama administration strongly supports the act, but the president's election -- and re-election -- may be among the best arguments against the law. There is little doubt that African-Americans suffered pervasive discrimination in the 1960s, especially at the polls. But now we have a black president. Doesn't that prove that African-Americans have reached at least rough equality in the electoral realm?

Not necessarily. When reauthorizing the law, Congress compiled a record of thousands of pages documenting the legacy of discrimination that lingers in the covered jurisdictions. The government asserts that the justices should defer to Congress in deciding whether the problem of voting rights is solved.

Still, the Obama administration has to deal with a very important likely adversary in this case: Chief Justice John Roberts. The court heard a similar challenge to the Voting Rights Act in 2009, and the court sidestepped the core issue, resolving the case on procedural grounds. But there was little doubt, in Roberts' questions at oral argument or in his opinion, that he believes, constitutionally speaking, times have changed. The chief is unlikely to look for a procedural way out of controversy for a second time.

The controversy over voter suppression in the 2012 elections might have a paradoxical effect on the future of the law. Democrats argued that the efforts to impose Voter ID requirements and the like amounted to discrimination against African-Americans and thus could be seen as justification for preserving the Voting Rights Act.

But several of the acts of alleged voter suppression took place in states -- like Pennsylvania and Ohio -- that are not covered by Section 5 of the act. That may help the plaintiff's core argument: Times have changed in the South.

In any event, it's likely to be a close vote. What happens if the law is overturned? The answer may be: not much. The South may not need the act anymore to protect the voting rights of minorities. If that's true, that would prove the plaintiffs' main argument in this case.

Powered by WorldNow

CBS19, MYTX & KCEB
2211 ESE Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75701
Phone (903) 581-2211
Fax (903) 581-5769

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KYTX. All Rights Reserved. Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice/Your California Privacy Rights, and Ad Choices.