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Feb 22

Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder: The (Un)Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

On February 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the continued constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which the Court questioned in 2009. Section 5 is the "emergency" provision of the VRA that requires certain states and counties to get pre-approval from the federal government before any changes in their voting laws or procedures can be effective, including better voter ID requirements. Section 5 was supposed to terminate in 1970. Yet it has been renewed four times and is now not scheduled to expire until 2031. States that must comply are determined by registration and turnout in elections that occurred more than 40 years ago. For example, despite the constitutional principle that all states have "equal dignity," Alaska has been under the federal government's receivership on election changes for most of its statehood.

Is Section 5 still needed to enforce the VRA or are Sections 2 and 3 (as well as the rest of the VRA and the 14th and 15th Amendments) now enough? Are the extraordinary circumstances that existed in 1965 that justified such an intrusion into state sovereignty then still present today? Did Congress aggravate the constitutional problems with Section 5 when it altered the legal standard for preclearance in 2006? Has Section 5 resulted in the creation of racially gerrymandered/segregated voting districts? How will the government defend Section 5 on February 27 and what arguments will Shelby County make to try to convince the justices to overturn the law?

Join us as our panel of experts discusses these issues.

More About the Speakers

The Honorable John Neiman
Solicitor General, State of Alabama

Michael A. Carvin
Partner, Jones Day

Roger Clegg
President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity

Todd F. Gaziano
Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Hosted By

Hans A. von Spakovsky Hans A. von Spakovsky

Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow Read More