The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments recently regarding Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act requires many states, most of them in the South to seek pre-approval for changes in voting procedures. The Voting Rights Act has been used to avoid discriminatory actions by local and state governments ranging from re-districting to simply moving polling places at the last minute. But, some argue that the South has changed and we are no longer any more prejudiced than any other part of the country. With a mostly conservative Supreme Court, those opposed to Sec. 5 see opportunity to end it or at least, curtail its effects.
During the oral arguments, Justice Scalia commented that Sec. 5 had become a "racial entitlement" and it would remain in perpetuity unless a court gave it sufficient examination. See ABA Bar Journal report. Justice Scalia suggested that discrimination at the polls has decreased over time. Justice Sotomayor appeared to dis-approve of Justice Scalia’s comment when she later asked the lawyer for Shelby County, the defendant, if he believed the VRA was a racial entitlement." The lawyer responded no. See Yahoo news report.
Justice Scalia may be correct that discrimination at the polls has decreased since 1965. But, discrimination regarding voting in other ways continues much as it did in 1965. When Sec. 5 was renewed in 2006, Congress heard some 300 incidents of discrimination regarding voting rights. Not unlike employment discrimination, voting discrimination is still with us. And, really, is it an argument for repeal of Sec. 5 that the South is now no more discriminatory than any other place in the U.S.? Is that the best we can do, argue that now we are no worse than anyone else?