Supreme Court Affirms Voting Rights Act

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289
Susan Lehman, 212-998-6318
Myrna Pérez, 267-879-1543

Supreme Court Affirms Voting Rights Act

In a Narrow 8-1 Decision, Court Rules in NAMUDNO v. Holder

NEW YORK - Today, in a narrow, 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court avoided a
constitutional challenge to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act,
instead holding in NAMUDNO v. Holder that the small utility
district in Austin, Texas that brought the challenge could seek to
"bail out" of the Act's pre-clearance requirements. 

"The struggle for voting rights is at the heart of the struggle for
civil rights and for American democracy," said James E. Johnson, Chair
of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.  "We are
pleased that the Court today did not disturb the Voting Rights Act, one
of the most successful pieces of civil rights and voting rights
legislation in our nation's history and that it left in place every
aspect of that Act."

In NAMUDNO v. Holder, the Court held that a
utility district was eligible to seek a statutory exemption from the
"pre-clearance" provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Court also
avoided reaching the constitutional question of whether those
provisions were a valid exercise of Congress's powers to prevent and
remedy racial discrimination in voting. 

Under the "preclearance" provisions at issue, covered jurisdictions
must submit any proposed changes to their voting systems to the
Department of Justice for preclearance before those changes go into
effect.  The preclearance process has successfully deterred and
prevented many voting changes that would have harmed minority electoral
participation and representation, including in recent elections. 

"Today's decision preserves every aspect of the Voting Rights Act. When
the next challenge comes-and sadly it will-the Court should refrain
from denying Congress the ability to design effective remedies against
racial and ethnic discrimination in voting," said Myrna Pérez, counsel
at Brennan Center for Justice.  "We should be proud of the progress
this country has made since 1965 toward equality in voting, but we
still must remain vigilant against backsliding."

"The Supreme Court reaffirmed the importance of the Voting Rights Act
and the critical role it has played in mitigating racial discrimination
in voting in this country," said Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the
Democracy Program at the Brennan Center.  "The decision makes clear
that Congress plays an important role in eliminating unfair barriers to
voting and in ensuring equal voting rights for all."

The Brennan Center, working with pro bono counsel at
Jenner & Block, submitted a friend-of-the-Court brief arguing that
the history of the Fifteenth Amendment makes clear that Congress has
broad power to enact the Voting Rights Act to prevent racial
discrimination in voting.  The three-judge lower court cited the
Brennan Center's earlier amicus brief in upholding the Act.

For more information or to set up an interview with Myrna Pérez, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or jeanine.plant-chirlin@nyu.edu.

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The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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