The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) Feb. 2 rebutted fresh skepticism about whether the Voting Rights Act is still needed in the South and whether it is constitutional.

Consider Calera, Ala. and its lone Black councilman just five years ago, LDF lawyers said during oral arguments in federal court in Atlanta involving a lawsuit challenging the Voting Rights Act by Shelby County, Ala.

The LDF lawyers told the court the story of Calera, Ala. councilman Ernest Montgomery. After the city drew new redistricting plans in 2006 without complying with Voting Rights Act, Montgomery, the city’s only African-American Councilman, lost his seat.

After the Department of Justice forced the city to draw new redistricting plans in compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and to hold another election, Montgomery regained his position.

The success would not have occurred without Section 5 of he Voting Rights Act, the LDF contended. That provision requires jurisdictions with past issues of discrimination to have any changes in their voting process reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court to guarantee that they are nondiscriminatory.

According to the Associated Press, Shelby County attorneys claimed that discriminatory voting practices are prevalent all over the country, as in the regions encompassed in the Voting Rights Act. Attorneys for the county argued that the law was “archaic” and “doesn’t bear at all on the current conditions of the country.”

But the LDF believes the provision is a safeguard against discrimination.

“While we’ve experienced great progress as a nation, problems of voting discrimination remain in many parts of our country,” Kristen Clarke, Co-Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group told the AFRO. “Section 5 helps us confront those problems head on and brings us closer to the point of political equality, which I think is an important goal in our democracy.”

“Section 5 plays an especially important role during the period of redistricting,” Clarke said. “This is when does the most work to protect the rights of minority voters.”

Attorneys told the AP that a final ruling in the case may take several months.

 

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor