ABA files amicus brief in Voting Rights Act case

In an amicus brief filed in Shelby County v. Holder, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Feb. 27, the American Bar Association is urging the Court to affirm a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and uphold Congress’ 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act as constitutional.

The ABA brief says that “litigation alone” under the act’s Section 2 “would not be an adequate and sufficient remedy for voting discrimination” in covered jurisdictions with a past history of racial discrimination in voting. The act’s Section 5 bars such jurisdictions from making changes in election laws without first getting approval of the Justice Department or a three-judge federal court in Washington. 

“Voting rights litigation under Section 2, as many ABA members know from front line experience, is extremely complex and costly,” the brief observes. “During the several years it regularly takes to litigate a Section 2 case, officials who were elected under an improper election regime continue to hold office, implement policies, and make a wide variety of decisions that remain in effect, often long after the election process that brought them to power is found to be discriminatory.” 

The brief states that the “time, cost and complexity of prosecuting a Section 2 case cause significant on-going harms that could be minimized by Section 5 preclearance but often cannot be remedied after-the-fact.”


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