Supreme Court may rule any day on Shelby County challenge

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) - UPDATE: The justices said in 5-4 ruling Tuesday that the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40-year-old data that doesn’t reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society.

To read more on the decision CLICK HERE.

A decision on Shelby County’s challenge of part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is anticipated this month. The Voting Rights Act is meant to prevent discrimination and protect the right of everyone to vote.

The Shelby County attorney says certain requirements place a burden on the county and are no longer needed.

The NAACP and other groups see this legal challenge as an attack on civil rights.

Sections 5 and 4B of the Voting Rights Act require a number of states including Alabama and certain counties scattered around the country to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before making any changes that could impact voters. All changes, from redrawing district lines to moving a polling place, require permission.

The DOJ would not allow election results to be certified in the City of Calera because of new voting districts that were not pre-cleared before a  2008 election.

Alabama came under sections 4B and 5 of the Voting Right Act  in 1965 after the attorney general found that the state was using a prohibited voting test and that less than 50% of people old enough to vote in Alabama actually voted in the 1964 presidential election.

These two sections of the act were challenged by Shelby County after Congress renewed them in 2006.

“The South has changed and we have minorities participating in elections equal to or exceeding the non-minority population,” said Frank Ellis, Shelby County Attorney.

In Shelby County’s suit against the federal government the county is arguing that the conditions which led to the federal intervention in state governance back in 1965 do not exist today.

“Each time it’s been challenged there are more circumstances to show there’s no longer needed or appropriate or relevant,” said Ellis.

A ruling in Shelby County’s favor would apply to all jurisdictions under the restrictions, according to Ellis.

“If we lose, we all lose. If we win, we all win,” said Ellis.

Defenders of sections 4B and 5 of the Voting Rights Act include the ACLU and NAACP and some minority voters in Shelby County who say there is too much at stake to do away with the requirements.

“We don’t want one ruling to eliminate 50 years of progress,” said Pastor Kenneth Dukes, Holly Grove Baptist Church.  “The ruling that happens here will affect this entire country so everyone is involved.”

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the challenge in February.

Here’s an excerpt from one exchange between Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Antonin Scalia regarding the need for the provisions and the last time Congress renewed the legislation in 2006.

<Kagan > “…It was clear to 98 senators including every Senator from a covered state who decided that there was a continuing need for this piece of legislation.”

<Scalia >”Or decided that perhaps they’d better not vote against it. That there’s nothing, that there’s no– none of their interests in voting against it.”

Related Links:

DOJ Calera Case

DOJ Voting Rights Act Section 4:

DOJ Voting Rights Act Section 5:

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