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Demos Calls on the Supreme Court to Uphold Section 5

WASHINGTON - Today, the Supreme Court heard argument in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos, released the following statement:

“For over 45 years, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has stood as a bulwark against racial discrimination in voting.  It is widely recognized as one of the most effective and important civil rights laws ever enacted in this country. And when Congress re-authorized Section 5 in 2006, it compiled an extraordinary record of thousands of pages of testimony and documentary evidence showing that covered jurisdictions have continued to enact and implement discriminatory voting laws, and that the protections of Section 5 are still needed.“

“Events over the past three years, since the Supreme Court last considered a constitutional attack on the Voting Rights Act, have only strengthened the case for upholding the protections of Section 5. Since 2009, the Department of Justice and several federal courts have found that jurisdictions covered by Section 5 have engaged in clear racial discrimination in redistricting, in the enactment of burdensome and restrictive photo ID laws, and in cutting back on early voting, to name just a few examples.   The Supreme Court must not substitute its judgment for that of Congress by dismantling this key protection against racial discrimination in voting.


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Reports from the argument today indicate that Justice Scalia referred to Section 5 as a “racial entitlement.”  The Court should reject such a shameless inversion of history and instead heed the words of Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights giant who bears the scars that brought the Voting Rights Act into being:

The right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy.  I risked my life defending that right.  Some died in the struggle. If we are ever to actualize the true meaning of equality, effective measures such as the Voting Rights Act are still a necessary requirement of democracy.

Demos filed an amicus brief in the Shelby County case supporting the constitutionality of Section 5, and Wright recently wrote on Section 5 in the Rutgers Law Review.


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A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change. We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance innovative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.

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