Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires certain states and localities with a history of voting discrimination to submit changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court before they can take effect.
The case involves a municipal utility district in Texas that says the preclearance provision is no longer necessary because the kind of discrimination that it was designed to combat no longer exists. The entire state of Texas is required to preclear voting changes.
A federal court rejected the municipality’s suit last year, finding that Congress was well within its authority to reauthorize the preclearance requirement, which is regarded by many as the heart of the Voting Rights Act.
At today’s oral arguments, Debo Adegbile, director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said voting discrimination is “persistent and adaptive” and continues to “manifest itself through repetitive efforts” such as moving polling stations from one place to another before an election, implementing redistricting plans to weaken minority voting strength, and preventing students of color from voting.
Adegbile also noted that Congress did not take the task of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act lightly, doing only after holding 19 hearings and reviewing thousands of pages of testimony and documents, including 14 reports by civil rights groups documenting voting discrimination in the states covered by the expiring provisions.
In a statement issued today, LCCR urged the Court to uphold the Act because it ensures “the right of all citizens in the United States to vote and choose leaders that represent their interests without facing discrimination.”
View Adegbile’s statement after the arguments (at the 3:56 minute mark)