Richmond, VA - Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia, released the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in the Shelby County v. Holder case:
The Supreme Court dealt what could be a death blow to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act today when it found that the formula used to select jurisdictions required to submit changes in voting laws to preclearance by the Justice Department is unconstitutional. By doing so, the Court has blocked the single most effective instrument of fairness in place since 1965.
We urge Congress to revive Section 5 by rewriting the preclearance formula, but we stand ready to continue the fight against discriminatory voting practices even if that does not happen.   All that was at issue in the Shelby County case was the preclearance process now applicable to Virginia and some other jurisdictions.  Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has always and continues to bar voting policies and practices that are discriminatory. What this decision really means is that the ACLU and other voting rights advocates will have to redouble our efforts to ensure that this fundamental right is, in fact and in law, equally available to all.
The preclearance process blocked 15 discriminatory voting laws in Virginia between 1982 and 2006, including a $45 fee one party proposed to impose on convention delegates – a practice overturned as a poll tax.