News / USA

US Supreme Court Reviews Key Civil Rights Law

Voting rights activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Feb. 27, 2013.Voting rights activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Feb. 27, 2013.
x
Voting rights activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Feb. 27, 2013.
Voting rights activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Feb. 27, 2013.
A key civil rights law from the 1960’s that helped ensure minorities could vote is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the midst of the struggle for civil rights, particularly in the states of the Deep South where racial discrimination was widespread.  At that time, local officials were known for making it difficult for African-Americans to vote.

A key part of the law known as Section 5 gives the federal government the power to pre-approve or block changes in voting procedures put forward by states and local governments in areas where African-Americans historically faced enormous difficulties in voting.

Under the U.S. Constitution, states have most of the power when it comes to running elections.

The law has been re-authorized by Congress several times, most recently in 2006. But now some conservative groups and officials from some of the states affected by the law say the statute is outdated and no longer necessary.

Butch Ellis is county attorney for Shelby County, Alabama, which is challenging a key part of the Voting Rights Act. He spoke to reporters outside the high court.

“They have made great strides over the last 48 years," said Ellis. "I have been the county attorney since 1964. I was 24-years old when we came under Section 5 [of the law]. I am 73 (as of) last weekend and we are still under the same formula, none of which has applied to us in many, many, many years.”

Some of the more conservative justices on the Supreme Court seemed to express skepticism about the law during oral arguments on Wednesday. They question whether the remedy Congress agreed to in 1965 is still warranted nearly 50 years later.

The Voting Rights Act was a product of the bloody struggle for civil rights in the southern U.S. in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Civil rights groups and the Obama administration defended the law in oral arguments before the high court. They acknowledge  some progress on race relations has been made in the states covered by the law in the past several decades. But they also argue the law is still a useful tool to ensure that states and local jurisdictions protect the right of all Americans to vote, regardless of race.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (L) and the Rev. Al Sharpton confer during a voter's rights rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.U.S. Rep. John Lewis (L) and the Rev. Al Sharpton confer during a voter's rights rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.
x
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (L) and the Rev. Al Sharpton confer during a voter's rights rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (L) and the Rev. Al Sharpton confer during a voter's rights rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.
Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, was badly beaten in 1965 while leading a march for voting rights in Alabama.  He spoke in front of the Supreme Court.

“We have come a great distance since then due in large part to the Voting Rights Act," he said. "Some people like to point to the fact that we have minorities in the Congress and that we have an African-American president. But we are not there yet!”

Legal analysts regard the Voting Rights Act as one of the landmark civil rights laws of the 1960’s. David Savage covers the Supreme Court for the Los Angeles Times. He spoke to the CSPAN public affairs TV network.

“This law was so important in American history. Everybody agrees, even the people who criticize it today, agree that the Voting Rights Act was one of the great civil rights laws of American history because it really allowed minorities to register to vote and have their votes count,” he said.

Savage said the Supreme Court must now decide whether enough progress has been made that a key provision of the law is no longer necessary.

“The only question now is, is its time past?  Is it outdated?  I think the conservative members of the court might be inclined to say this was a good law, but its time is past and you can no longer put the Deep South under this special scrutiny of the courts,” Savage said

Legal analysts say the voting-rights challenge is among the most important cases the high court will deal with this term.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case before the end of June.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid