Civil Rights Groups File Supreme Court Brief in Support of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, joined by 28 other civil rights organizations, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder, arguing for the constitutionality of maintaining a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA).

The brief asserts that Section 5 of the VRA, which Congress reauthorized in 2006, is still a necessary tool for protecting the rights of voters in states with histories of voting discrimination, especially in light of voter ID laws and other recent voting restrictions in states covered by Section 5 like Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Section 5 protects voters by requiring covered states and localities to obtain preapproval of any changes to voting laws and rules from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court in D.C. to insure that the changes aren’t discriminatory.

“While many of these jurisdictions have made substantial progress toward eliminating discriminatory voting practices, the legislative record amassed by Congress—as well as more recent history—shows that these gains are fragile and that discriminatory practices still persist,” the brief states.

Lawyers for Shelby County, Alabama, however are challenging the continued use of Section 5 in Congress’s 2006 reauthorization of the VRA. In their brief, The Leadership Conference and co-signers reject Shelby County’s argument and state that “Congress’s decision in 2006 to reauthorize §5 of the Voting Rights Act for 25 years and to maintain the existing coverage formula was a reasonable and appropriate exercise of its enforcement authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.”

The 28 organizations joining The Leadership Conference’s brief include the Anti-Defamation League, AARP, the League of Women Voters, the National Urban League, Project Vote, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case on February 27. Check out video of the rally in support of the Act outside the Court:


VIDEO: Real Voters Tell Their Stories. New videos telling the stories of voters in Texas and South Carolina show how Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was able to step in and protect real voters from changes in election procedures that threatened to take away the rights of some Americans to vote – because of their race.

Updated: 03/01/13