Has the South Moved Beyond 1965?

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and CNN columnist Jeffrey Toobin says that the argument boils down to whether Southern states have matured.

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Director of the Congress of Racial Equality James Farmer and President Lyndon B. Johnson
(National Archives/Getty Image)

As states like Pennsylvania and Ohio fought over voter-ID laws during the election, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 loomed in the shadows of America's legal system. The Supreme Court is scheduled to pass down a decision on Shelby County v. Holder next year regarding whether the Act -- instituted so that states, in any attempt to limit voting rights, couldn't change their laws without "pre-clearance" from the Justice Department -- is still valid. But CNN's Jeffrey Toobin argues that the real question is, has the South moved on?

But now we have a black president. Doesn't that prove that African-Americans have reached at least rough equality in the electoral realm?

Not necessarily. When reauthorizing the law, Congress compiled a record of thousands of pages documenting the legacy of discrimination that lingers in the covered jurisdictions. The government asserts that the justices should defer to Congress in deciding whether the problem of voting rights is solved.

Still, the Obama administration has to deal with a very important likely adversary in this case: Chief Justice John Roberts. The court heard a similar challenge to the Voting Rights Act in 2009, and the court sidestepped the core issue, resolving the case on procedural grounds. But there was little doubt, in Roberts' questions at oral argument or in his opinion, that he believes, constitutionally speaking, times have changed. The chief is unlikely to look for a procedural way out of controversy for a second time.

Read Jeffrey Toobin's entire piece at CNN.

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