SCOTUS Removes Critical Protection For Voters Of Color


June 25, 2013

Contact: Cynthia Gordy, 718-755-4340 or


Advancement Project Maps Show Impact of Decision in Key States

A Statement from Advancement Project

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down today Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the formula used as the basis for Section 5 coverage, which since 1965 until today required all or parts of 15 states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to get federal preclearance before making any changes to their voting procedures. The attached map shows the breadth of the coverage formula that was struck down, and the attached chart and map show which states are currently considering restrictive voting laws.  In response, Advancement Project issued the following statement.

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has taken the extreme act of at least temporarily suspending the nation’s strongest civil rights protection,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “But we will continue to fight for voters of color in close collaboration with our community partners in the states to ensure that their voting rights remain protected. Ample evidence shows that prior Section 4 formula – which enabled Section 5 to block more than 1,500 discriminatory voting laws from going into effect since its inception, including five last year – is still a critical necessity, and that the formula for those covered states was clearly appropriate.

“Eleven out of the 15 states covered by Section 5 enacted, or are pursuing, restrictive voting laws this year. And despite the climbing demographic power of voters of color that is often cited to discredit the provision, those turnout numbers were made possible only after the defeat of voter suppression bills challenged under Section 5. Today’s Supreme Court’s decision will make it harder to fight the voter restrictive bills that persist across the nation. For example, Virginia and North Carolina will not have to submit their proposed restrictive photo ID laws for preclearance, unless and until the new coverage formula is resolved.  (See maps here.) However, the fight is far from over. We and our community partners will keep swinging back with other tools, such as Section 2 litigation and dedicated advocacy to change state laws, and we will lift up their voices to ensure that they are part of the new coverage formula debate, to ensure that the ballot remains free, fair and accessible for all.”

Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair added: “The Supreme Court’s ruling rolls back legislation that courageous Americans fought so hard for, even giving their lives in many cases, to ensure that all citizens can participate in our democracy. Today’s decision threatens the promise of equal access to the ballot – especially when the majority of voters of color who voted last year, 65.8 percent, live in states covered by the Section 4 formula. This ruling also disregards that Congress has rightfully reconsidered and reauthorized the formula multiple times with wide margins of bipartisan support. Yet as state legislatures continue to push new laws and policies making it harder to register to vote, harder to cast a ballot, and harder to have a vote counted the civil rights community will remain vigilant and committed to protecting voters. We have essentially lost an effective tool today to stave off voter suppression this year, because states like Virginia and North Carolina will not have to submit their photo ID laws for preclearance. But we and our community partners will use other legal options to make sure that every American, regardless of his or her race, enjoys an equal right to vote.”

You can view Advancement Project’s maps here.