Where SC Stands in Voting Rights Act Debate

Supreme court justices in full Section 5 Debate mode


By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- It is being called the most important legal battle over minority voting rights in decades, and South Carolina's impact is inevitable, either way, says one law school professor.

"It's a big deal," says USC Law Professor Derek Black.

Like anyone in the legal profession, Black is closely watching how the U. S. Supreme Court is leaning regarding Section Five of the 1965 Voting rights Act.

Shelby County Alabama Vs. Holder began Wednesday.

Section Five of the Voting Rights Act gives the federal government the authority to pre-approve any changes to voting policy in South Carolina and other states with a history of questionable voting practices.

"Based on the questions the justices were asked and their previous opinions written over the years, we can gather four are clearly against and four are clearly for, with one person in the middle," said Black.

After opening arguments began, in the Shelby Vs. Holder case, Black says Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia are ready to strike down Section Five. Justices who are for keeping Section Five in the VRA include Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is in the middle.

"As in most important cases, Kennedy is the deciding vote," said Black.

Black believes Kennedy will likely vote for a modified version of Section Five to be implemented. While a final decision is not expected until June, one thing is for sure now, says Black.

"If they strike down Section 5 for Alabama, it will strike it down for South Carolina as well."

That means the Palmetto State would be able to make changes on whatever it wants, whenever it wants.

The outcome of the Section Five debate will also greatly impact Arizona, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.
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