State of Alabama

Alabama Section 5 VRA Challenge

Shelby County v. Holder

Lawsuit in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the coverage formula of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was unconstitutional and could not be used to determine which states and jurisdictions were subject to preclearance. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court’s conservative justices concluded that, since the data used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to preclearance was from 1975, the formula had “no logical relationship to the present day” and was an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights. This ruling effectively gutted Section 5 of the VRA, which mandated that certain “covered” jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory election laws (determined by Section 4) must get federal pre-approval before any newly proposed voting legislation could go into effect — a process known as preclearance. This tool had previously allowed the federal government to block state-sponsored discrimination before it occurred, targeting those jurisdictions most likely to continually disenfranchise voters. Following this decision, states previously subject to preclearance no longer need federal approval to enact new voting laws and maps. 

A row of headshots of U.S. Supreme Court justices with those in the majority shaded dark red and those in the dissent shaded light red. A square is around the name of the justice who wrote the majority opinion.

Case Documents (U.s. supreme court)

Case Documents (D.c. circuit court)

Case Documents (district court)

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