- Under law, the federal government has oversight in certain states and localities
- An Alabama county filed the lawsuit, arguing federal monitoring is unwarranted
- Oral arguments will be held next year, with a ruling expected by June
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether the key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be scrapped as a constitutionally unnecessary vestige of the civil rights era.
Known as Section 5, it gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington.
The provision was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for another quarter-century, and an Alabama county subsequently filed suit, saying the monitoring is overly burdensome and unwarranted.
The case will be one of the biggest the justices tackle this term, offering a social, political and legal barometer on the progress of civil rights in the United States -- and the level of national vigilance still needed to ensure minorities have equal access to the election process.
Oral arguments will be held next year, with a ruling expected by June.
The case is Shelby County, AL v. Holder (12-96).