Supreme Court to Hear Voting Rights Challenge on Feb. 27

Plans are underway for a massive rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 27 to oppose any change to a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned racial gerrymandering and opened Southern polling places to millions of African-American voters.

The Supreme Court set Feb. 27 as the day to hear arguments in the case Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, which governs nine states and parts of seven other states with a history of racial discrimination. The section, frequently called the ‘Heart of the Voting Rights Act,’ also requires the states to ask either the Department of Justice or a three-judge court in Washington, D.C., for approval before making any changes to voting laws.

Officials in Shelby County, AL claim the anti-discrimination provisions in Section 5 are law are too costly and no longer needed. Civil rights and labor rights groups in Alabama and across the country are quick to disagree.

“Absent the protection of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, we have no doubt that the efforts of majority-white state and local governments to isolate and minimize the political influence of black Alabamians will advance rapidly and far outstrip our resources to combat them,” said James Blacksher of Birmingham, an attorney representing the black elected officials in Alabama.

The outcome of the case could affect 16 states because the Voting Rights Act applies to all of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota and some local jurisdictions in Michigan and New Hampshire.