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RELEASE: Protecting Voting Rights in the Wake of Shelby County v. Holder

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Contact: Madeline Meth
Phone: 202.741.6277

Washington, D.C. — Today the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, a vital piece of legislation that is widely hailed as the nation’s most effective civil rights law. The Center for American Progress released two analyses that unpack the implications of the Court’s decision. In the wake of the Shelby v. Holder decision, “Creating a Federal Right to Vote” explains what legal protections remain for voters and what more can be done to ensure that all eligible voters can freely and easily participate in our democracy. “State and Federal Courts: The Last Stand in Voting Rights” illustrates how the Court’s decision impacts the role that federal and state courts will play in protecting the right to vote.

In Creating a Federal Right to Vote,” Joshua Field, Deputy Director of Legal Progress, explains that even though the vast majority of Americans believe that their right to vote is one of the most important rights in a democracy, there is no explicit declaration of the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has also been relatively hands off when it comes to voting cases, resulting in legal deference to state voting laws. But states have often used this relative freedom not to protect voting rights but to disenfranchise political opponents or make it harder for people of color, low-income voters, and young people to vote.

While the decision to gut the law that has protected voters from purposeful vote dilution, overly restrictive voting procedures, and voter intimidation leaves voters with fewer protections against potentially discriminatory voting laws, it is still possible to enhance federal voting rights.   A constitutionally guaranteed right to vote could help ensure that a vote cast in Miami, Florida, would carry as much weight—and be just as unconstrained—as one cast in Daniels County, Montana.

In addition to pushing for a right-to-vote amendment, “State and Federal Courts: The Last Stand in Voting Rights” explains that those who care about fighting voter suppression must turn their attention to state and federal courts. With the decision to strike down the formula that identified which states and localities were required to clear changes to their voting procedures with the Department of Justice, civil-rights advocates will have to rely more on litigation to challenge discriminatory voting laws. If progressives want to protect the rights of voters, they must push to have judges who share their values appointed to the federal bench, and they must support judicial election reforms that will help keep one political party from dominating all three branches of state governments.

Read “Creating a Federal Right to Vote.”

Read “State and Federal Courts: The Last Stand in Voting Rights.”

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To speak to experts on this issue, please contact Madeline Meth at or 202.741.6277.


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