Voting Rights


The U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder effectively gutted the enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act. By holding Section 4 (the "formula") unconstitutional the Court severly underminded Section 5, the law's primary enforcement provisions. ACS will continue to serve as a resource on the case and the issue of voting rights – one of the most fundamental rights. Recently, ACS has partnered with the Campaign Legal Center’s Voting Rights Institute to help train the next generation of voting rights lawyers. 

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) remains one of the most important and effective laws ever enacted. It outlaws discriminatory voting practices that have disenfranchised racial and ethnic minorities in the United States for decades and continues to ensure an open electoral process. As we have seen over the past few years, many states and jurisdictions still seek to enact their own measures aimed at making it harder for people – often minorities, the elderly, and the young – to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

Section 5 of the VRA requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to submit any proposed voting changes to the federal government for “preclearance” before they are enacted to ensure that they are not discriminatory. An overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress voted in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 for another 25 years following an extensive and exhaustive review of the record. Shelby County is arguing that it was unconstitutional for Congress to reauthorize Section 5. While a district court and federal court of appeals upheld Section 5, its fate moved into the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which in the past has consistently upheld Congress' authority over the VRA but on June 25 reversed course.

The high court in 2013 also considered in Arizona v. ITCA, a state voter registration law that conflicted with the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA or the “motor voter” bill). While the NVRA allows people to register to vote using a simple, uniform postcard, Arizona’s law rejected the federal form unless it also complied with the additional – and, not surprisingly, onerous – state documentation requirements. The Supreme Court ruled on June 17, 2013 – by a resounding 7-2 vote – that Arizona's law was unconstitutional.


(Click here for deatils about the areas covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.) 



Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (decided June 25, 2013)

  • ACS President Caroline Fredrickson's statement on the decision

Arizona v. ITCA (decided June 17, 2013)



"Keeping Faith with the Constitution" by Goodwin Liu, Pamela S. Karlan & Christopher H. Schroeder

ACS Issue Briefs



ACSblog Posts



"The Value of a Vote: Reassessing Political Equality" -- June 15, 2013 -- ACS 2013 National Convention, Washington, D.C.


Representative John Lewis (R-Ga.) receives the 2013 Progressive Champion Award -- June 14, 2013 -- ACS 2013 National Convention, Washington, D.C.








  • Media Matters voting pieces: