The National Urban League Wire
Published: Wed. Dec 31, 1969 at 7:00 pm | Updated: Tue. Jul 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Comments: 0
Supreme Court Ruling On Shelby Erases 50 Years of Progress on Voting RightsWhat the Supreme Court Decided: In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the formula used in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to determine which states must receive preclearance for voting law changes was unconstitutional. With this decision, the Court effectively turns back the clock and erases the voting protections guaranteed in the Constitution.
Read the summary of the Supreme Court decision from SCOTUSBLOG.com:
“Today’s holding in Shelby County v. Holder, in Plain English: Today the Court issued its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the challenge to the constitutionality of the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That portion of the Act was designed to prevent discrimination in voting by requiring all state and local governments with a history of voting discrimination to get approval from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures, no matter how small.
In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required. But much more importantly, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it.”
What this ruling means: There is no more fundamental right we have as Americans than the right to vote. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the coverage today is based on decades-old data and racist practices. This notion ignores thousands of pages of evidence documenting present-day voter suppression tactics. As evidenced in the 2012 election, long lines at the polls, restrictive voter ID requirements, complicated registration procedures, and other measures clearly designed to make voting more difficult for certain communities prove that discrimination and racism are still threat to democracy and efforts to protect the right to vote area still sorely needed.
What we can do: The last time the Voting Rights Act came before Congress in 2006, it passed with broad bi-partisan support. As the evidence shows, the tide of voter suppress has gotten worse—not better since then. We must demand that Congress move quickly to devise a new formula for Section 4. To do otherwise is a blow to the sacrifice of countless men and women who fought and died for the right to vote. As we prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington just weeks away, we can best honor those early freedom fighters including Whitney M. Young, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rep. John Lewis by demanding no less.
Read the Urban League’s statement responding to today’s ruling.