Half a century after Congress passed landmark civil-rights legislation, how far should the federal government go to protect the hard-won voting rights of once-disenfranchised minorities? That's the question before the U.S. Supreme Court after Wednesday's arguments on the latest challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While times have changed, the court should heed the continued need for voting protections.
The justices are considering a challenge to the section of the law that requires certain voting districts to get clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before they can change election rules or procedures. The provision applies to all or part of 16 states with a history of voter discrimination - mostly in the South, with its long history of voting laws designed to keep minorities out of polling places. Congress has repeatedly renewed the Voting Rights Act, most recently in 2006, when it extended the clearance requirement for 25 years.