Voting Rights

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of the Voting Rights Act

11.21.13

Since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been a critical safeguard to ensuring equal access to the ballot and guaranteeing our most fundamental right as Americans. Section 5 of the Act requires jurisdictions with significant histories of voter discrimination to “pre-clear,” or get federal approval from the Department of Justice, for any new voting practices or procedures.

In June 2013, in a huge blow to democracy, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula used in Section 5. This is already threatening to undo decades of progress across the country for minority voting rights. However, the 5-4 decision does not strike down Section 5 itself, leaving it to Congress to devise a new method for determining which jurisdictions must obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice. The ACLU is working with Congress to devise a new formula that continues to protect the rights of minority voters.

Although we have made important gains in voting rights, discrimination at the polls persists and cannot be dismissed as a relic of the past. Many voters still face significant obstacles in registering to vote and casting ballots, and efforts are underway to enact even more restrictive voting policies in states across the country. The tactics may change, but the goal of disfranchisement remains the same.

Visit the national ACLU website for more information on the Voting Rights Act and current efforts to restore it.