February 1, 2013
Washington, D.C.- Nevada Senator Harry Reid today issued the following statement after filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of upholding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which provides the legal avenue to challenge measures that discriminate against minority voters. The case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, puts Section 5 of the VRA in jeopardy:
“Voting is the most fundamental of our rights as Americans, and the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important laws Congress has ever passed. The Voting Rights Act, and in particular Section 5 of the law, provides crucial protection for minority voters living in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination. This law was reauthorized in 2006 and passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 98-0, based on an extensive legislative record. Congress recognized that unfortunately bigotry still exists in this nation, and that there are still those who would seek to suppress the vote on the basis of race. Indeed, during the 2012 election cycle, insidious efforts were made in various states to suppress voter turnout in minority communities.
“Today, I filed an amicus brief with United States Supreme Court to make clear my belief that Section 5 is not only constitutional, but a critical tool in upholding the promise of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Although our nation has made great progress in fighting prejudice and discrimination, the recent election demonstrates that Section 5 remains necessary to ensure that every eligible voter has the right to cast a ballot. If the Supreme Court dismantles this historic civil rights law and overrules the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives, it will be a tremendous step backwards for freedom and equality in this country. I urge the Court to respect Congress’s judgment concerning what is necessary to prevent racial discrimination in election practices, and to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Background on Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States
Shelby County is challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Acts (VRA). Section 5 of the VRA requires jurisdictions in 16 states with a history of racial discrimination to receive pre-clearance from the federal government before changing voting procedures, to ensure that the proposed change will not discriminate against minority voters. Such changes could be moving a polling location, drawing new districts, requiring photo ID, or other such actions. Shelby County’s lawsuit challenges Section 5 on the basis that the preclearance requirement is an encroachment on state sovereignty and that preclearance is no longer needed. In 2006, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 98-0.