The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Presents Oral Argument in Defense of Section 5 of the VRA

(New York, NY) – Today the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) presented oral argument in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case challenging a core provision of the Voting Rights Act known as Section 5. The provision requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to have voting changes reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to ensure that they are nondiscriminatory.

“Widely regarded as the heart of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5 remains a vital safeguard for an inclusive democracy,” said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.

In 2006, the City of Calera, which lies within Shelby County, enacted a discriminatory redistricting plan without complying with Section 5, leading to the loss of the city’s sole African-American councilman, Ernest Montgomery. The Department of Justice, however, subsequently required Calera to draw a nondiscriminatory redistricting plan in compliance with Section 5 and to conduct another election, after which Mr. Montgomery regained his seat.

Section 5 was reauthorized in 2006 by an overwhelming majority of Congress, and, in a 2009 case argued by LDF, the Supreme Court issued an 8-to-1 ruling that left Section 5’s important protections intact.

This case differs in that opponents are challenging both the constitutionality of Section 5 on its face and challenging the Section 4(b) coverage provision which determines where the law applies. Although Shelby County argued that Section 5 is no longer necessary, today’s hearing demonstrated that a compelling and detailed legislative record led Congress to conclude otherwise: that, although there have been improvements, Section 5 remains appropriate because of persistent and ongoing voting discrimination.

“Congress recognized the progress that the Voting Rights Act has helped to bring about, but also grappled with a substantial degree of continuing and concentrated discrimination. Partial progress is not synonymous with victory — the Voting Rights Act still matters in our democracy,” said Kristen Clarke, Co-Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group, who argued the case.


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.