Tags: Voting Rights | Shelby County v Holder | Voting Rights Act | Supreme Court

Supreme Court Ruling on Voting Rights Act: 5 Facts About Historic Case Shelby County v. Holder

By    |   Tuesday, 17 Nov 2015 03:00 PM

Shelby County v. Holder was a Supreme Court ruling on voting rights handed down in June 2013. The ruling struck down Section 4 of 1965's Voting Rights Act. Section 4 determined how the Justice Department was to enforce Section 5, which required certain states to seek permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws. The rule applied to states considered to have a history of discrimination.

Here are five important facts about this landmark Supreme Court ruling on voting rights:

1. The Vote was Close
As The New York Times noted, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to declare Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito, voted to strike it down, with Roberts writing the majority opinion and Thomas writing a concurring opinion. Voting against striking it down were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Ginsburg wrote the dissent.

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2. Challenging Discriminatory Election Laws is More Difficult
The Washington Post noted that because of this Supreme Court ruling on voting rights, these states can now change their laws without seeking permission, and that it is more difficult for the Justice Department to confront potentially discriminatory election laws. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law said it will require more time and money to fight election law discrimination.

3. The Law Applied Only to Some States
Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act didn't require all states to seek approval before changing election laws. Instead, it only applied to states where discrimination had been considered a problem. These included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota. It was Shelby County in Alabama that challenged the law.

4. The Decision Does not Allow Voting Laws That Discriminate
The New York Times noted that states still cannot enact voting laws that discriminate against specific groups or individuals. In fact, in his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote "our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting" in section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

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5. Several States Have Enacted Stricter Voting Laws as a Result of the Decision
According to the Brennan Center, on the day of the ruling Texas moved forward with a law requiring photo identification to vote. Not long after, South Carolina began requiring photo ID, limited early voting, and shortened the time allowed for voter registration. Other states enacted laws of their own, some of which are now challenged by advocacy organizations and other groups that have filed lawsuits.

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Shelby County v. Holder was a Supreme Court ruling on voting rights handed down in June 2013. The ruling struck down Section 4 of 1965's Voting Rights Act.
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Tuesday, 17 Nov 2015 03:00 PM
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