Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Stacie B. Royster / (202) 662-8317 / (202) 445-6101
Angelo Kakolyris / (212) 259-8187 / (646) 361-5287

Press Release

Lawyers’ Committee Applauds Court Decision Upholding Section 5, a Vital Provision of the Voting Rights Act


Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act against a challenge by Shelby County, Alabama, a largely-white suburb of Birmingham.  The court ruled that Congress acted appropriately when it reauthorized the preclearance requirement of Section 5 in 2006.  The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law intervened in the case to defend Section 5, representing Bobby Lee Harris, a Shelby County resident and a former member of the Alabaster, Alabama city council.

“Today’s decision properly recognizes the important role that Section 5 plays in combating voting discrimination,” said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee, who argued the case on behalf of Mr. Harris before the court.

The district court’s decision confirms the overwhelming congressional consensus, in 2006, that this vital provision of the Voting Rights Act still is needed to ensure voting equality for minority citizens.  Section 5 requires that states and localities with a history of voting discrimination submit any changes in their voting practices and procedures for federal review before putting them into effect. 

Section 5 has been responsible for blocking over one thousand discriminatory voting changes since its enactment in 1965, changes that would have undermined the right to vote of countless citizens.  In the next few years, Section 5 will remain invaluable as states, counties, cities, and school districts redraw their voting districts based on the 2010 Census.  Simply put, Section 5 has played and will continue to play a critical role in what is still an ongoing struggle to eliminate racial discrimination in voting in this country. 

“I know from first-hand experience how important Section 5 is for minority voters,” said Mr. Harris.  “In 2000, Section 5 prevented Alabaster from redrawing the boundaries of the ward I represented so as to dilute minority voting strength.”

“Judge Bates’ ruling preserves the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, which has been and will continue to be our country’s most important means for preserving the right to vote and preventing discrimination in the electoral process,” said John Nonna, a Lawyers’ Committee board member, partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, and co-counsel along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Bobby Lee Harris.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., is the named defendant in this lawsuit.  Other Shelby County residents who intervened to defend Section 5 are represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The District Court’s opinion may be found here.  We will issue an analysis of the Court’s opinion shortly.  A Fact Sheet providing further information about this lawsuit and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is available here.


The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar’s leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity – work that continues to be vital today.

'This Cannot Happen': Biden DHS Seeks Contractor for Migrant Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay

The solicitation for bids—which requires some guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole—comes as the administration is under fire for mass deportations of migrants, including thousands of Haitians.

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Vaccine Goals 'Fall Terribly Short' Due to Big Pharma and Rich Nations' Greed: Experts

"Wealthy nations are using up the world's vaccine supply, and developing nations are suffering and losing thousands of people every day."

Brett Wilkins ·

11 Senators Support House Progressives' Push to Pass Full Biden Agenda

"We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track."

Jessica Corbett ·

Ex-Prisoners Recall US Torture at 'Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib'

"It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening," said one former Bagram Air Base inmate. "The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the U.S."

Brett Wilkins ·

Rapid Shift to Electric Vehicles Could Create Over 150,000 Jobs in US by 2030

A new report says "smart" pro-labor policies by lawmakers would transform the "inevitable" shift to EVs "into a new beginning for U.S. producers and the rebuilding of a foundation for good jobs."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo