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NAACP Legal Defense Fund Commends Court Decision Upholding Constitutionality of the Heart of the Voting Rights Act

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9/21/11

(New York, NY) -- Today, for the second time, a federal court in Washington, D.C. upheld the constitutionality of the heart of the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.  

The case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, involved a challenge to the Section 5 “preclearance” provision of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states and jurisdictions with some of the worst histories of discrimination, such as Alabama, to have all voting changes reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice or D.C. District Court to ensure they are free from discrimination.   

In rejecting this challenge, the Court ruled that Congress appropriately extended the protections of the preclearance requirement in 2006 for 25 more years.    

“As the Court recognized, Congress’s decision to reauthorize Section 5 in 2006 was guided by its experience-based prediction about the strong medicine that was necessary to ensure equality in America’s democratic process,” said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.  “Today’s ruling embraces the wisdom of that prediction.” 

Seizing upon the more than 15,000 page legislative record of voting discrimination that Congress assembled before its near-unanimous reauthorization vote in 2006, the Court found that, “despite the effectiveness of Section 5 in deterring unconstitutional voting discrimination since 1965, Congress in 2006 found that voting discrimination by covered jurisdictions had continued into the 21st century, and that the protections of Section 5 were still needed to safeguard racial and language minority voters.…[T]his Court declines to overturn Congress's carefully considered judgment.” 

The Court also recognized that the “instances of intentional voting discrimination documented in the legislative record represent only a fraction of those instances that otherwise would have occurred in the absence of Section 5”. 

“Our experience since the 2006 reauthorization has been characterized by serial efforts to  declare the core of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, and widespread efforts by states covered by Section 5 to make full political participation more difficult for minority voters,” said Ryan Haygood, Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group. “It must seem strange to the average person that we face repeated attacks on the Voting Rights Act in court, even as efforts to narrow voting opportunities with all the markers of intentional discrimination proliferate and threaten to undermine our vigorous commitment to an inclusive democracy.”  

LDF intervened in the case to defend Section 5 on behalf of several Black community leaders and voters in Shelby County, and presented oral argument urging the Court to reject Alabama’s invitation to declare Section 5 unconstitutional.

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ABOUT LDF
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is America's premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.