Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The case, Shelby County v. Holder, involved a challenge to the Section 5 “preclearance” provision of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires that states and jurisdictions with the worst histories of voting discrimination submit proposed voting changes to the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to ensure they have no discriminatory intent or effect. The court’s opinion is critically important in the ongoing battle for fair and effective participation in our political process. Section 5’s “preclearance” provisions are widely considered to be the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Today, the court reaffirmed not only the necessity of having the states and jurisdictions with the worst histories of voting discrimination “preclear” any changes to their electoral process, but that Section 5 continues to be a constitutional exercise of congressional authority. Indeed, recent efforts across the country to suppress minority voters are proof that Section 5’s “strong medicine” remains necessary. From the perspective of those who are concerned about racial justice, civil rights and political participation, the record that was before Congress makes abundantly clear that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still very necessary to protect the rights of racial and ethnic minorities who live in the covered jurisdictions to effective participation in our political process.
The opinion in Shelby County v. Holder can be found here.