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The Voting Rights Act Is In Jeopardy, But It Shouldn't Be: A Close Look at Shelby County v. Holder

For the last 47 years, year in and year out, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) has stood as our nation’s most effective civil rights law to realize the guarantees of the Fifteenth Amendment and prevent and deter state-sponsored racial discrimination in voting. Much of the Act’s success is due to the preclearance requirement contained in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires state and local jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or a three-judge federal court in Washington, D.C., before changing their voting laws and regulations. 

This Term, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court will take up the constitutionality of the preclearance requirement for the sixth time since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965. The Court should reject Shelby County’s argument. In this Issue Brief, we show that the constitutionality of the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act should not be in serious doubt.