Historic Voting Rights Protections At Risk

On February 27th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, one of the nation’s most important voting rights cases to date. At issue is the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), the landmark legislation that outlawed racial discrimination in state voting practices. The court is being asked to rule on VRA’s Section 5, the critical enforcement mechanism of the law. Over the years, the VRA was reauthorized several times by Congress including in 2006 with broad bi-partisan support. Section 5 is vital in protecting eligible citizens from barriers to voting and ensuring that their votes count. The immense progress made in recent decades to protect and expand the right to vote has largely been due to Section 5 of the VRA. With the onslaught of anti-voter legislation that has recently swept the country, we still need Section 5 to keep our elections free, fair and accessible. Section 5 has helped defeat approximately 2,400 discriminatory voting changes over the years, and helped protect voting rights just last year in a number of states. The League’s support for voting rights and the VRA is longstanding, and we have submitted amicus briefs in Shelby v. Holder. If the court overturns the VRA, it will not only threaten voting rights – it will threaten the very foundation of our great democracy.

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