Tags: Voting Rights | Voting Rights | Shelby County v. Holder

5 Facts About the Shelby County v. Holder Decision

By    |   Thursday, 12 Nov 2015 06:44 PM

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law as a defense against discriminatory voting practices, was altered in a controversial decision in 2013. The Shelby County v. Holder decision struck down a key provision of the act, the preclearance section, calling it “unconstitutional.”

Here are five facts regarding the landmark case:

1. Preclearance Was Previously Required by Several States
Because of their history of discrimination, the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia were required to seek federal approval before making any changes to the voting laws in the states, according to the U.S. Justice Department. While not requiring preclearance as a whole, selected counties within the states of California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota also fell under Sections 4 & 5 of the Voting Act.

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2. Case Origins in Alabama
The case for Shelby County v. Holder originated in Alabama. The county “filed suit in district court and sought both a declaratory judgment that Section 5 and Section 4(b) are unconstitutional and a permanent injunction against their enforcement,” according to Oyez, a project of the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law.

3. The Supreme Court Decision
The court labeled Section 4 as unconstitutional in a narrow 5-to-4 vote, thereby rendering the preclearance portions of Section 5 obsolete. Regarding the decision, The Leadership Conference said, “While the Court did not invalidate the pre clearance mechanism in the VRA per se, it effectively halted its use by invalidating the formula that determined which places were subject to the pre clearance obligation.”

4. States Make Changes
A number of states have already taken advantage of the ruling to implement new voting laws and guidelines. The Washington Post reported that some of the implementations “were unquestionably beneficial to voters – like online voter registration, which 20 states now have. Many of these election changes were prompted by suggestions made by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which released a comprehensive evaluation of America's electoral systems this January.”

5. Controversy Still Exists
Shortly after the Shelby County v. Holder decision, “13 mostly Republican-controlled states, including Texas and Wisconsin, have introduced laws demanding voters provide photo ID, such as a driver's license or a passport,” The Week reported. As a result, many minorities and support groups voiced their outrage. Those in favor of this measure claim that it is a check against voter fraud, while those against it claim that such measures infringe on voters rights.

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According to The Week, “About 25 percent of eligible black voters and 16 percent of Hispanic voters don't have photo ID, compared with 9 percent of whites ... many poor voters can't afford cars or vacations abroad, and thus don't have driver's licenses or passports, and will be unfairly burdened by the $75-and-up cost of obtaining birth certificates and traveling to a government agency to secure a photo ID.”

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law as a defense against discriminatory voting practices, was altered in a controversial decision in 2013. The Shelby County v. Holder decision struck down a key provision of the act, the preclearance section.
Voting Rights, Shelby County v. Holder
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2015-44-12
Thursday, 12 Nov 2015 06:44 PM
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