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ACLU Lens: U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Voting Rights Act Case

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November 9, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to review a case that challenges the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, which has been a crucial tool for protecting the minority vote and ensuring equal access to the ballot box.

The court agreed to hear Shelby County v. Holder, which involves Shelby County, Ala. The ACLU intervened in the case in order to represent minority voters and the state NAACP chapter, and protect the right to vote.

As we have seen in a number of states this year, efforts to enact voting laws that target people of color and other groups are unfortunately far too common,” said Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act helps eliminate such discriminatory and harmful practices. We hope the Supreme Court will recognize the vital role this civil rights-era law plays in protecting the fundamental right to vote and ensuring equal access to voting.

Since 1965, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been protecting racial and language minorities’ access to voting. It requires jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices to get approval for changes in their election laws. When Congress extended Section 5 in 2006 by another 25 years, it overwhelmingly concluded that there is a great need for it, and said that without the Voting Rights Act’s protections, the minority vote will be diluted.

The Supreme Court today took no action on Nix v. Holder, a case out of Kinston, N.C. in which the ACLU also intervened to protect the minority vote.

The recent spread of voter ID and other voter suppression laws – which disproportionately target minorities, seniors, youth and people with disabilities – have reaffirmed the need for this landmark civil rights-era law. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act must be upheld in order to ensure all American citizens can participate in our political process. Anything less threatens our cherished right to vote and weakens our democracy.

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