Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), released a report titled, Democracy Diminished: State and Local Threats to Voting Post-Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (Shelby County), a detailed collection of state, county, and local voting changes — proposed or implemented — during the past three years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. The Court’s decision in Shelby County eliminated the provision of the Act that for fifty years required jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to submit proposed changes to a federal authority for preclearance before implementation. The “preclearance provision” of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has long been regarded as the most important means of protecting minority voters from voting discrimination. The Shelby County decision struck down the formula that brought state and local jurisdictions under Section 5’s preclearance protocol. The report released today was published by the Thurgood Marshall Institute, a research, policy and communications hub within LDF.
“Democracy Diminished shows how the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County case — which second-guessed the judgment of Congress, the testimony of experts and overwhelming evidence of voting discrimination — has left millions of minority voters vulnerable to voter suppression schemes in towns, counties and states across the country, ” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel.
Since the Shelby County decision, LDF has closely monitored the actions of formerly covered states and localities while continuing to robustly enforce other provisions of the VRA. LDF and other civil rights groups led by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, have pressed Congress to pass legislation that restores preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act in a manner that complies with the proscriptions set out by the Supreme Court in the Shelby County decision. Although proposed legislation has been introduced in every Congressional session since the Shelby County decision, it has stalled in the House of Representatives.
“Until the Voting Rights Act is fully intact, we must all play a role in protecting every individual’s right to vote,” said Leah Aden, Senior Counsel at LDF and principal author of the report. “We urge Congress to hold immediate hearings on legislation introduced to amend the Voting Rights Act.” Democracy Diminished makes this call to action all the more urgent by cataloging extensive voting changes made on the state and local level in thirteen states and illustrating the vulnerability citizens of color currently experience across the country.
“Democracy Diminished is a living account of the aftermath of the Shelby County decision,” said Janai Nelson, LDF’s Associate Director-Counsel.
“This year’s presidential election will be the first in more than half a century without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, which had its most effective plank invalidated by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. A remarkable report released earlier this month by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund detailed the numerous restrictive laws and rule changes, from statewide voter ID to local-level schemes to move polling places, that Shelby has allowed.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.