A cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to protect minority groups in southern states from unjust voting laws, could be overturned this year, reported Bloomberg.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the part of the law that requires all or part of 16 states in the south to receive federal approval before enacting laws that impact voting.

The Obama administration used that provision this year to stop voter I.D. laws in Texas and South Carolina from taking effect. Overall, the Justice Department has stopped 2,400 changes since 1982.

Preclearance “has been one of the most powerful tools in the civil rights arsenal,” according to Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken. “It’s made more of a difference in improving the civil rights of African Americans than any other statute I can think of.”

Originally the law impacted states with the worst records on racial discrimination, in order to ensure that African Americans would no longer face insurmountable barriers to voting. In the 1970s, "language minorities" were added as a protected class.

The ruling will come in June after arguments are heard in early 2013.

[Image via AFP]