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Judd Gregg: Voting Rights Act Should Be A 'Legislative Matter'

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Former Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act -- which forces places with a history of discrimination, like the Deep South, to get approval before changing the way elections are held -- should be considered a "legislative matter."

“I do believe this is a legislative matter where the action of the congress should take priority and does not raise constitutional issues that justify judicial action superseding the legislative branch’s role," Gregg said in an email to MSNBC's "Up w/Chris Hayes."

The Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on Wednesday. The AP reported earlier:

The lawsuit from Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham, says the "dire local conditions" that once justified strict federal oversight of elections no longer exist.

The Obama administration and civil rights groups acknowledge the progress, but also argue that Congress was justified in maintaining the advance approval, or preclearance, provision when the law was last renewed in 2006.

Last week, President Barack Obama weighed in on behalf of the law in a radio interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison. "It would be hard for us to catch those things up front to make sure that elections are done in an equitable way" if the need for advance approval from the Justice Department or federal judges in Washington were stripped away, Obama said.

After hearing the arguments Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that the continuation of the provision represented the "perpetuation of racial entitlement." HuffPost's Ryan J. Reilly reports Scalia also claimed lawmakers had only voted to renew the act because there wasn't anything to be gained politically from voting against it.

Tome Perez, a Justice Department assistant attorney general who has headed the Civil Rights Division since October 2009, told HuffPost days before the High Court heard arguments on Section 5 that the provision is still "very necessary."

“Section 5, regrettably, continues to be very necessary,” Perez said. “Texas is one of a number of examples why its necessary and the law is not over-inclusive.”

Click here for more on Gregg's remarks to "Up w/Chris Hayes," and watch a clip from the show above.

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