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Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013), was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.
On June 25, 2013, the Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on data over 40 years old, making it no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states. The Court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula.
In its wake, the ruling has made it easier for state officials to make it harder for Black and other racio-ethnic minority voters to vote. Research shows that preclearance led to increases in minority congressional representation and increases in minority turnout. Five years after the ruling, nearly 1,000 polling places had been closed in the U.S., with many of the closed polling places in predominantly African-American counties. Research shows that the changing of voter locations and reduction in voting locations can reduce voter turnout. There were also cuts to early voting, purges of voter rolls and imposition of strict voter ID laws. A 2020 study found that the jurisdictions which had previously been covered by preclearance massively increased the rate of voter registration purges after the Shelby decision. Virtually all restrictions on voting subsequent to the ruling were by Republicans.
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“While I think that most voting rights activists will know that Shelby v Holder gutted the VRA, less known, and as a practical matter, more damaging, is A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) v Husted (Secretary of State Ohio) of June 2018 that authorized “purge by postcard” — which was then rolled out in Georgia, wrongly purging 340,134 voters, defeating Stacey Abrams, the test that has driven mass purges nationwide—16.7 million removed in the last election cycle.” Greg Palast
Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, No. 16-980, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), was a case before the Supreme Court of the United States regarding Ohio’s voter registration laws. At issue was whether federal law, 52 U.S.C. § 20507, permits Ohio’s list-maintenance process, which uses a registered voter’s voter inactivity as a reason to send a confirmation notice to that voter under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. If the mail is not returned, the voter is stricken from the rolls, a practice called voter caging. The Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that Ohio’s law did not violate federal laws.