Redistricting Cases Challenge Voting Rights Act The 1965 Voting Rights Act has removed racial barriers for generations of black voters in the South. Now a legal challenge raises the question of just how much federal oversight election laws still need.
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Redistricting Cases Challenge The Voting Rights Act

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Redistricting Cases Challenge The Voting Rights Act

Redistricting Cases Challenge The Voting Rights Act

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Carrie Johnson has the story.

CARRIE JOHNSON: It's a power that rankles many of today's conservatives. Hans von Spakovsky is one of them.

HANS VON SPAKOVSKY: You have the federal government having to approve things that are - laws and ordinances that are passed by the local governments and state governments. You don't see that in any other area.

JOHNSON: Von Spakovsky, a Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, says parts of 16 states, most of them in the South, are covered by the law today based on data gathered in the 1960s.

VON SPAKOVSKY: This was needed in 1965, 'cause in 1965 there was systematic, widespread discrimination in the South against black voters. But there's no one that can show that there's anything like that today.

JOHNSON: Rick Hasen studies election law at the University of California in Irvine.

RICK HASEN: The Voting Rights Act has been a crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement, and for the court to say that Congress doesn't have the power to step in and require this kind of federal review of voting rules would be a dramatic shift in how the court views the federal-state balance.

JOHNSON: But election lawyers like Gerry Hebert say the threat of a Supreme Court case is already making a difference.

GERRY HEBERT: Many of us feel that the Justice Department is too concerned with the fact that the Supreme Court will strike down the act and so, maybe doesn't enforce it as vigorously as it should because it's concerned that if it is accused of overreaching, that the Roberts' Court will strike the act down.

JOHNSON: Election law professor Rick Hasen says he'll be watching.

HASEN: This is the first time that a Democratic administration will be in charge of the Department of Justice during one of these redistricting periods, putting aside the Johnson administration.

JOHNSON: Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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