High Court To Consider Landmark Civil Rights Law

The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments this week on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Justices appeared to be split on whether to uphold a key provision of the landmark civil rights law.


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Section 5 gives the federal government unrestricted oversight over states with a history of voter discrimination. Shelby County Alabama filed a federal lawsuit in 2010, seeking to have that provision declared unconstitutional.

Community leaders met outside Houston City Hall to defend the Voting Rights Act. Durrell Douglass is with the Texas Organizing Project.

“Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is essential (and) important now more than ever. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, he said, ‘Give us the ballot, and we would elect men of good candor.’ And if he were alive today, I think he would say, ‘Let us keep the vote.'”

Conservative Supreme Court justices suggested that the provision was a constitutionally unnecessary vestige of the civil rights era. 

UH history professor Gerald Horne is an expert on issues that deal with race, politics and civil rights.

“If you look at states, like Mississippi and Alabama, you’ll find heavily polarized racial voting. For example, you may know that 9 out of 10 white Americans traditionally vote against the Democrats, whereas the percentage is just the opposite for African Americans. My conclusion is things may have changed, but things also remain the same.”

Earlier this week, Houston state Rep. Sylvester Turner urged Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop the state’s challenge, saying Section 5 is still needed here.  

A decision is expected by June.

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