RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Voting Rights Act became law to end Jim Crow suppression of black voters, but today, the 46-year-old law has become a tactical arguing point in redistricting debates throughout the South.

Republicans boost the minority population of some majority-black districts and say the law prevents any dilution of black voting strength. That renders nearby districts even whiter and more Republican-friendly.

Democrats call that “packing” — an effort to minimize districts where minorities can elect candidates of their choice. They contend that’s exactly the sort of thing the act was intended to stop.

The debate rages in several Southern states, and it will likely take federal courts and President Barack Obama’s Justice Department to decide who’s right.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.