Section 5 Voting Rights Act

“At that time, we’d been singing songs, we shall overcome, and before I’d be a slave…be dead and buried in my grave,” says Bennie Lee Tucker. He’s seventy four years old, and he spent the last fifty five of those years here in Selma. “And we gonna let nobody turn us around, no more Governor Wallace…no more white folk,” he says.

On the front porch of his home on Eugene Avenue, Tucker recalls March 7th, 1965. It was the height of the voting rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior wasn’t the name on everyone’s mind that day.

Once-powerful Democrats are challenging legislative districts drawn by Alabama Republicans that have helped shrink Democratic representation to just eight seats in the state Senate - all of them from districts in which African-Americans are a majority.

Black Democrats say the GOP did it by misusing a landmark voting-rights law, intended to ensure the right to vote for southern blacks, to instead limit their voting strength. They argue that Republicans relied too heavily on race to draw new electoral maps following the 2010 census.

It was one year ago when the US Supreme Court struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  That section required federal approval for voting changes in states with a history of racial discrimination, mostly in the south.  And after the Supreme Court acted, many of those states rushed to enact laws requiring photo identification to vote, including here in Alabama. The state reported few problems during this month’s primary election.  Critics of voter photo ID say they’re waiting for the November election when more voters show up at the polls.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

It's been one year since the Supreme Court ruled a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. In Shelby County, Alabama versus Holder the ruling says states with a history of chronic racial discrimination no longer needed to get Justice Department approval for changes to voting rules. Janai Nelson is the Associate Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Alabama Public Radio’s Ryan Vasquez talked with Nelson about the act, and how violations outlawed by the measure are now re-appearing.

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New efforts by the Obama administration to put Texas back under voting rights laws knocked down by the Supreme Court has other states waiting to see if they're next.

The Justice Department wants Texas to continue seeking federal preapproval to change voting laws. That's despite justices stripping that requirement from the Voting Rights Act last month.

Birmingham News/Michelle Williams

Alabama civil rights leaders say they'll be creative as they plan ways to protest the Supreme Court decision to throw out part of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

   Speaking at a news conference on the Capitol steps in Montgomery on Thursday, Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma urged Alabama residents to participate in an Aug. 24 recreation of the March on Washington.

   He also encouraged local protests of the ruling, which black leaders say pushes back gains made since the 1960s.

Two estranged leaders of Alabama's Democratic Party are united in their criticism of a Supreme Court decision on voting rights.

   Both Alabama Democratic Conference leader Joe Reed and former party chairman Mark Kennedy say they'll do what they can to fight the decision released Tuesday.

   A majority of the justices sided with Republican-controlled Shelby County in ruling that a key part of the 1965 law can't be enforced without new congressional action.

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The Alabama county at the center of the Supreme Court's decision on voting rights is praising the decision.

Shelby County attorney Butch Ellis says the ruling Tuesday will save local and state governments time and money without hurting the cause of voting equality.

Ellis says he's "elated" with the ruling, in which the court said a key part of the law is invalid until it's updated by Congress.

The justices set aside a part of the landmark law that requires federal approval for changes to election practices in the South and some other areas.

Ryan Vasquez

All year long here on Alabama Public Radio, we’re looking at the 50th anniversary of some of the pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Era. Times of have changed for the better since 1963, but have they changed so much that we can move on from laws meant to protect minorities. Shelby County is challenging a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 saying it’s no longer needed. Today Mason Davis is an accomplished lawyer in Birmingham, but in 1958 he was just a young law student trying to register to vote in Alabama.

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A two-day bus tour to support the Voting Rights Act kicks off Tuesday morning in Jackson, Miss., and wraps up Wednesday afternoon in Montgomery, Ala.

David Kohl/

Civil rights advocates plan to rally in Washington, D.C. while the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference CEO Charles Steele says the group of about 150 will leave Washington D.C. Feb. 27 after a rally and press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Section 5 of the act bars states from altering voting qualifications and procedures without federal approval.