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Voting Rights after Shelby County v. Holder

Publication Date: 
July 05, 2013

Professor Nathaniel Persily acted as a moderator in a discussion and webcast hosted by the Governance Studies Program at Brookings on the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder. 

On June 25, the Supreme Court released its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a constitutional challenge to preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 requires certain "covered" states and localities with a history of race-based discrimination in voting to seek federal government preclearance, either through the federal courts or the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, to adopt changes in their voting laws; Section 4 adopted a formula for identifying those jurisdictions that are subject to preclearance under Section 5. In a 5-4 decision, the Court found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, but did not strike Section 5 from the law. As a result, Section 5 preclearance will not be in effect unless Congress passes new legislation that sets forth a new procedure to identify jurisdictions subject to Section 5 preclearance.

On July 1, the Governance Studies Program at Brookings hosted a discussion and webcast focused on the Court’s ruling. The discussion featured scholars of the Voting Rights Act, the parties in the case, experts on Congress, representatives from the civil rights community, and members of the media for a series of discussions on the ruling, its impact on voting rights and election administration, and prospects for future legislative action.



Thomas Mann, W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
Nathaniel Persily, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School