(New York, NY) – The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) has moved to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Shelby County, Alabama, which seeks to invalidate the federal preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act known as Section 5. LDF seeks to intervene on behalf of African-American residents of Shelby County whose voting rights are directly impacted by this challenge.
Widely regarded as the heart of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5 serves as our democracy’s discrimination checkpoint by requiring jurisdictions like Alabama with a history of racial discrimination in voting to submit proposed voting changes for federal pre-approval to ensure that they are free from discrimination. The protection deters and blocks voting discrimination effectively.
After thorough review of the history and continuing need for this civil rights protection, Congress concluded in 2006 that Section 5’s protections are still necessary in Alabama and other parts of the country with histories of voting discrimination to protect the constitutional right of minority citizens to fully participate in our democracy. Accordingly, with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress voted to reauthorize Section 5 and former President Bush signed the reauthorization bill into law for 25 years.
Indeed, Shelby County provides a recent salient example of Section 5’s ongoing importance.
Just 4 years ago, the City of Calera (which lies in Shelby County), without complying with the Voting Rights Act, held an election after conducting nearly 200 annexations and redrawing its city council boundaries to eliminate the only district that gave Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of choice. Following this election, Councilman Ernest Montgomery, an intervenor represented by LDF and only the second African American in the history of Calera to hold a post on the city council, lost his seat. Because of Section 5, Calera was required to draw a nondiscriminatory redistricting plan and to conduct another election in which Mr. Montgomery regained his seat as the sole African American on the city council.
Shelby County’s lawsuit was filed less than one year after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, an unsuccessful constitutional challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In that case, representing African-American intervenors, LDF successfully resisted a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court.
“This case was filed to strike down a core provision of our nation’s most important and effective federal voting rights laws. As recent events in Shelby County make clear, the work of Section 5 in 2010 remains undone,” said Payton. “LDF’s commitment to and focus on the defense and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and Section 5 is unwavering.”