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Voting Rights Act: 7 Quotes From Lawmakers About Shelby County v. Holder Decision

By    |   Tuesday, 05 Jan 2016 03:51 PM

In 2013, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was deemed unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling against the Department of Justice in its Shelby County v. Holder decision.

The provision eliminated the requirement for certain states, formerly with a history of voter discrimination, to obtain a federal preclearance to alter its voting laws. According to the DOJ, the states covered by this provision were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

As might be expected the decision was polarizing, not only for average citizens who argue whether the decision could open the door for a new wave of voter discrimination, but for our nation’s lawmakers and representatives as well. Nearly two years later, the Shelby County v. Holder decision is still being debated.

Here’s what lawmakers and representatives had to say at the time:

1. “For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act ... has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent."
President Barack Obama

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2. The attorney general called the decision a “serious setback for voting rights,” and said his department will “continue to carefully monitor jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights ... Let me be very clear, [that] we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action, using every legal tool that remains available to us, against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

3. “As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don’t have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no pre-clearance ... It is confounding that after decades of progress on voting rights, which have become part of the American fabric, the Supreme Court would tear it asunder.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York)

4. “It is time for Alabama and the other covered jurisdictions to resume their roles as equal and sovereign parts of these United States.”
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange

5. "Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years. These [five justices] were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process. They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs. No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote. They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights."
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia)

6. "(The decision) reflects how conditions have improved."
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley

7. "The justices correctly acknowledged that the covered jurisdictions should no longer be punished by the federal government for conditions that existed over 40 years ago. The South is an altogether different place than it was in 1965."
Shelby County Attorney General Frank Ellis


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In 2013, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was deemed unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling against the Department of Justice in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. Here’s what lawmakers had to say at the time.
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