Washington (CNN) - A predictably divided Supreme Court appeared ready to strike down – at least in part – the key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, with many conservative justices on Wednesday suggesting it was 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 mostly in the South with a history of voter discrimination.
Any changes in voting laws and procedures in all or parts of 16 covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington. That could include something as simple as moving a polling place temporarily across the street.
The provision was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for another 25 years and officials in Shelby County, Alabama, subsequently filed suit, saying the monitoring was overly burdensome and unwarranted.
In a tense 80 minutes of oral arguments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked why the court would rule "in favor of the county that is the epitome" of what caused the law to be passed in the first place.
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