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February 26th, 2013
09:41 AM ET

How far has America come on race?

By Tommy Andres, CNN

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Shelby County, Alabama (CNN) - On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will tackle one of the touchiest issues it has faced in recent history. The focus is on a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act called Section 5.

The provision’s aim is to prevent discrimination at the polls by requiring nine mostly southern states and additional districts across the country to check with the federal government before making any changes to voting policies. The states must apply for approval from the federal government for anything from new voter ID laws to simply moving a polling place.

In 2010, Shelby County, Alabama filed suit against the federal government over Section 5, and the case has climbed to the highest court in the land.

Shelby County attorney Frank Ellis, Jr. says the law is outdated, violates the sovereignty of states, and brings about unnecessary costs to the communities it encompasses:

[2:29] “The estimates are that these 12,000 cities and counties spend as much as a billion dollars every ten years in costs directly associated with having to ask for pre-clearance.”

But Elizabeth Wydra, of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center, says recent elections prove that disenfranchisement of minorities is still a looming problem:

[3:55] “In the 2012 election there were several state laws that were aimed at voter suppression. We saw this in South Carolina, there were some changes in Texas, both redistricting and voter ID laws that were put on hold through the voter ID laws that were put on hold through the Voting Rights Act. We even had state officials going on the record saying they were trying to suppress minority vote in order to get their candidate to win.”

The case won’t just be a ruling on one section of one of the most historic pieces of Civil Rights legislation passed in American history, it will also be a dissection of racial progress and social change.

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