For Immediate Release
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289
Susan Lehman, 212–998–6318
Myrna Pérez, 267–879–1543
In a Narrow 8–1 Decision, Court Rules in NAMUDNO v. Holder
New York – Today, in a narrow, 8–1 decision, the Supreme Court avoided a constitutional challenge to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, instead holding in NAMUDNO v. Holder that the small utility district in Austin, Texas that brought the challenge could seek to “bail out” of the Act’s pre-clearance requirements.
“The struggle for voting rights is at the heart of the struggle for civil rights and for American democracy,” said James E. Johnson, Chair of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “We are pleased that the Court today did not disturb the Voting Rights Act, one of the most successful pieces of civil rights and voting rights legislation in our nation’s history and that it left in place every aspect of that Act.”
In NAMUDNO v. Holder, the Court held that a utility district was eligible to seek a statutory exemption from the “pre-clearance” provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Court also avoided reaching the constitutional question of whether those provisions were a valid exercise of Congress’s powers to prevent and remedy racial discrimination in voting.
Under the “preclearance” provisions at issue, covered jurisdictions must submit any proposed changes to their voting systems to the Department of Justice for preclearance before those changes go into effect. The preclearance process has successfully deterred and prevented many voting changes that would have harmed minority electoral participation and representation, including in recent elections.
“Today’s decision preserves every aspect of the Voting Rights Act. When the next challenge comes-and sadly it will-the Court should refrain from denying Congress the ability to design effective remedies against racial and ethnic discrimination in voting,” said Myrna Pérez, counsel at Brennan Center for Justice. “We should be proud of the progress this country has made since 1965 toward equality in voting, but we still must remain vigilant against backsliding.”
“The Supreme Court reaffirmed the importance of the Voting Rights Act and the critical role it has played in mitigating racial discrimination in voting in this country,” said Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “The decision makes clear that Congress plays an important role in eliminating unfair barriers to voting and in ensuring equal voting rights for all.”
The Brennan Center, working with pro bono counsel at Jenner & Block, submitted a friend-of-the-Court brief arguing that the history of the Fifteenth Amendment makes clear that Congress has broad power to enact the Voting Rights Act to prevent racial discrimination in voting. The three-judge lower court cited the Brennan Center’s earlier amicus brief in upholding the Act.
For more information or to set up an interview with Myrna Pérez, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.