When the Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday (February 27) in a direct challenge to a central part of the Voting Rights Act, it will once again wade into a decades-old dispute over voting rights that has its roots in the country’s long history of racism.

But in asking whether a key part of the federal law is constitutional, the court also will reopen a debate that long predates the measure’s enactment in 1965. It’s an argument that was at the heart of the U.S. Civil War, and one that has seen resurgence in recent years as Republicans around the country bristle at what they perceive as meddling from Washington.

That debate is the battle over states’ rights.