One of the signature laws from the civil rights era may be significantly weaker at the end of this Supreme Court term. The justices decided yesterday to hear a challenge to a key component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the law designed to ensure that minorities don't face discrimination at the polls, reports SCOTUSblog. The part in question, Section 5, requires that states in the South get permission from Washington before changing their voting rules.
Critics say it's an outdated and irrelevant federal overreach in a nation that just re-elected Barack Obama, reports the New York Times. It's a "Jim Crow-era time warp," says a spokesman for the Project on Fair Representation. Not so, says the NAACP, which notes that courts invoked the provision in the 2012 election to strike down voter-ID laws and restrictions on early voting, reports the Washington Post. The law's fate seems a little shaky: The court nearly struck it down three years ago in a separate case, with Chief Justice John Roberts asserting that "things have changed in the South," notes the LA Times. The court "sent Congress clear signals that it should update the law," writes SCOUTSblog's Lyle Denniston, but "Congress did nothing in reaction." (Affirmative action also is on this term's docket.)