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LDF Defends Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the U.S. Supreme Court

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

(Washington, D.C.) The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, et al. LDF Special Counsel Debo Adegbile argued on behalf of Respondent-Intervenors in defense of the Voting Rights Act. LDF represents six African-American residents of Shelby County who seek to defend the constitutionality of the core provisions of the Act.

LDF on steps of Supreme Court after Shelby County, AL v. Holder oral arguments
Photo credit: Jocelyn Augustino©2013

Mr. Adegbile argued that Section 5, the "preclearance" section and heart of the Voting Rights Act, remains an essential tool in defending the voting rights of African-American voters, and other voters of color, who live in those places with the worst and most persistent history of discrimination in voting. He further argued that the Court should defer to the judgment of Congress, which appropriately reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006, based on an extensive and thorough record showing that voting discrimination in the covered jurisdictions is repeated and more prevalent than in non-covered places. Pointing to recent examples of intentional voting discrimination in covered jurisdictions, Mr. Adegbile argued that Congress acted within its authority to reauthorize Section 5 as a rational and constitutional tool under Congress's enforcement powers. He further defended Section 4(b), the coverage provision of the Act, as providing a reasonable geographic scope of coverage.

The U.S. Solicitor General, arguing on behalf of Attorney General Eric Holder, stressed that Section 5's "bail in" and "bail out" provisions ensure that coverage remains directed towards those jurisdictions that continue to discriminate.

The Supreme Court has considered the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act four times before, and each time has defended the heart of the Act as constitutional. The most recent such challenge was in 2009, when LDF successfully defended Section 5 in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder