WASHINGTON — The most potent weapon in fighting discrimination at the ballot box was before the Supreme Court on Wednesday in a case that weighs the nation’s enormous progress in civil rights against the need to continue to protect minority voters.
The justices were hearing arguments in a challenge to the part of the Voting Rights Act that forces places with a history of discrimination, mainly in the Deep South, to get approval before they make any change in the way elections are held.
The lawsuit from Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham, says the “dire local conditions” that once justified strict federal oversight of elections no longer exist.
The Obama administration and civil rights groups acknowledge the progress, but also argue that Congress was justified in maintaining the advance approval, or preclearance, provision when the law was last renewed in 2006.
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