Does having an African American president allude to a post racial America? Have we as a nation moved on from oppressing minority groups? To many, yes. To many, the anti-discrimination laws of nearly a half a century ago no longer show effectiveness and usefulness in the year 2013.
On February 27, 2013, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of a key provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that was passed during the peak of the civil rights movement to insure that states did not discriminate against minority groups in their ability to vote, banning voter suppression rules such as literacy tests.
Fast forward 48 years, the case heard, Shelby County v. Holder, now seeks to determine whether section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a provision that requires lawmakers in states with a history of discrimination who want to change or amend any voting law to ask permission from the federal government, still makes sense in our society.
The plaintiff, Shelby County, Ala., argues that Alabama should no longer be required to follow such rules, considering that the state ensures that voter discrimination is non-existent. Yes, Alabama, the state that has in history been the epicenter of the racially segregated South during the civil rights movement, and that has since then passed many discriminatory laws that have affected different racial communities such as African Americans, and most recently, Latinos, with anti-immigrant laws.
Shelby County, which is 90 percent Caucasian, redrew one of its electoral maps. It allocated hundreds of white voters and decreased the number of black voters, from 70.9 percent to 29.5 percent. Through section 5, the Justice Department blocked the new maps and in July of 2012, Shelby County filed a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court Justices to rule Section 5 unconstitutional.
Conservative justices from the Court seemed to agree with the plaintiff, suggesting that the modern South had outgrown its discriminatory past and that the burdens that such a provision entails could no longer be justified.
On the other hand, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for example, saw the argument as having a clear racial undertone, and asked questions to both parties about the status of racial discrimination in voting in our nation, if it still exists.
Under the current law, section 5 applies to nine states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, and to some counties and municipalities in other states, such as Manhattan and the Bronx.
Advocates for the provision argue that most of the states still show significant problems related to voter registration and voting records. If the court overturns the provision, the nine states would become free to change voting procedures without first getting permission, enabling them to directly or indirectly infringe on certain citizens