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Lawyers’ Committee Defends Constitutionality of Voting Rights Act in Federal District Court
WASHINGTON - February 3 - Oral Argument on cross-motions for summary judgment in Shelby County v. Holder was held on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. before Judge John Bates. This case, challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, was brought by Shelby County, Alabama. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represents defendant-intervenor Bobby Lee Harris and presented oral argument in defense of the statute along with the United States Department of Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lawyers' Committee Chief Counsel Jon Greenbaum, who presented oral argument, emphasized that "for the last 45 years, Section 5 has played an indispensable role in preventing the implementation of new discriminatory voting changes." He added, "While Judge Bates reserved decision, we are confident that the Court will carefully and properly apply the appropriate legal standards and will uphold the constitutionality of Section 5 of this essential civil rights legislation."
Section 5 preclearance requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to submit proposed voting changes for federal review before they are enforced to ensure that they are free from discrimination.
The Lawyers' Committee filed briefs opposing a motion for summary judgment by Shelby County seeking summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The briefs emphasize the authority of Congress to extend Section 5, the weight that Congress' findings must be given by the Court, and the extensive legislative record before Congress showing that Section 5 is needed to prevent racial discrimination in voting.