The Supreme Court is weighing Shelby County’s challenge to a portion of the law that requires states with a history of racial discrimination, mostly in the Deep South, to get approval from the Justice Department before implementing any changes in election laws. That includes everything from new voting districts to voter ID laws.
Attorneys for Shelby County argued that the pre-clearance requirement is outdated in a state where one-fourth of the Legislature is black. But Jackson predicted the South will return to gerrymandering and more at-large elections if the Supreme Court voids part of the law.
Attorney General Eric Holder, the defendant in Shelby County’s suit, told marchers that the South is far different than it was in 1965 but is not yet at the point where the most important part of the voting rights act can be dismissed as unnecessary.
Martin Luther King III, whose father led the march when it resumed after Bloody Sunday, said, “We come here not to just celebrate and observe but to recommit.”
One of the NAACP attorneys who argued the case, Debo Adegbile, said when Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it understood that the act makes sure minority inclusion is considered up front.
“It reminds us to think consciously about how we can include all our citizens in democracy. That is as important today as it was in 1965,” he said.
Adegbile said the continued need for the law was shown in 2011 when undercover recordings from a bribery investigation at the Alabama Legislature included one white legislator referring to blacks as “aborigines” and other white legislators laughing.
“This was 2011. This was not 1965,” he said.