On February 27, 2013, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which challenged the constitutionality of the “preclearance” provisions of the VRA. The NAACP submitted an Amicus Brief on behalf of Attorney General Holder and the Voting Rights Act. Last Tuesday, June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its decision in which 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 jurisdictions must comply under 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. This means that there is no longer a mechanism in place to prevent states with a history of voter disenfranchisement from enacting such laws.
Thus it is now up to Congress and the President to pass a new law to determine which jurisdictions should need to be “precleared” before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures. Over the next few months, the NAACP will work with Members of Congress and the Administration, to craft a bipartisan, bicameral bill that can and will get signed into law and which will stand future scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court which protects the voting rights of every American, regardless of his or her race or ethnicity.
For more information on the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court’s decision, what the NAACP is doing, and most importantly what you can do, please review the Issue Alert linked here.