The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to hear the Voting Rights Act challenge out of Alabama, Shelby County v. Holder, in which county officials claim that Congress exceeded its authority when it extended the act’s provisions for another 25 years. The challenge focuses specifically on Section 5 of the act, which requires nine states and parts of seven others (including N.C.) to obtain Department of Justice preclearance for any changes to their voting laws. The county contends that the formula used to determine which jurisdictions are covered by the section is based upon voting data from 35 years ago and that voting turnout and registration rates now approach parity in many of the covered jurisdictions.
In 2009, the Court came close to striking that section, noting, in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, that “things had changed in the South.” Congress has done nothing since to update the formula.
The Court took no action on the Voting Rights Act case out of Kinston, N.C., Nix v. Holder. That case will apparently remain pending for review, possibly until the Court rules in the Shelby County case.