Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Voting Rights Act Challenge

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

James Freedland, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Voting Rights Act Challenge

WASHINGTON -  The
Supreme Court agreed today to hear an appeal brought by a small
municipal utility district in Austin, Texas challenging a key section
of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the landmark federal law that ensured
African-Americans access to voting booths across the South. The
American Civil Liberties Union represents an African-American voter who
lives in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One, the
jurisdiction that brought the challenge. A number of civil rights
organizations are also participating in the lawsuit.

The Voting Rights Act provision,
known as Section 5, requires certain jurisdictions that have a history
of racial discrimination in voting to obtain advance permission from
the federal government before changing their election laws. Congress
overwhelmingly approved the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in
the summer of 2006 and President Bush signed it into law. Yet, in a
direct challenge to this crucial civil rights law, the Austin utility
district asked a federal court to declare Section 5 unconstitutional.

In May 2008, a federal district court soundly rebuffed the district's request to have the provision declared unconstitutional.

The following can be attributed to Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project:

“Racial and language minorities
remain politically vulnerable, warranting the continued protection the
Voting Rights Act provides. Despite significant progress over the
years, the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision remains an
essential tool to remedy and prevent discrimination at the ballot box.
Without this protection, too many citizens will be denied the
opportunity to exercise their right to vote, or will have their votes
diluted. We are hopeful that the Court will uphold the Voting Rights
Act in its entirety so that we can continue to make progress.”

The following can be attributed to Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU:

“The constitutionality of Section 5
has been repeatedly challenged, but the Court has dismissed those
challenges each and every time. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will
affirm the lower court's decision so that the voting rights of all
Americans will be more secure. It would be a grave mistake to dismantle
a law that has protected voting rights for more than a generation.”

More information on the case is available at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/minority/37008lgl20080901.html

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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