Join The NonProfit Times: or Become a member

Subscribe: Print Publication or Newsletter

Stay connected.
Stay informed.

U.S. Supreme Court Nullifies Section 4 Of Voting Rights Act

By Mark Hrywna - June 25, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. The 5-4 vote in Shelby County v. Holder came down along ideological lines, with the five conservative justices voting together, including Chief Justice John Roberts. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored the dissenting opinion.

Section 4 determines which jurisdictions must get pre-clearance from a federal court or the U.S. Department of Justice before making changes to voting laws. The jurisdictions affected were states and counties primarily located in the South. The court did not rule on Section 5 of the Act, which requires pre-clearance for those states and jurisdictions. As recently as 2006, Congress had re-authorized the Voting Rights Act, by a vote of 390-33 in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate.

The majority opinion, written by Roberts, stated that the data used to determine the states is old and the gap between minority populations and voter turnout in states where the law was necessary no longer are as disparate. In her dissenting opinion, Ginsburg cited several examples of voter discrimination laws created but struck down within the last 15 years.

“In essence, the court is telling Congress to look at it all over again. The problem is, the four dissenting justices pointed out, Congress did that in 2006, built upon the existing record additional proof of why the Voting Rights Act was necessary to be reauthorized,” said Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits in Washington, D.C.

Within hours of the decision, NAACP posted a petition on its website urging Congress to act to protect voting rights. “In striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act — but leaving Section 5 untouched — there is no longer a mechanism in place to prevent states with a history of voter disenfranchisement from enacting such laws. While this is a setback, it is by no means the end of the game. The Supreme Court’s decision gives Congress complete authority to ensure no person is denied the right to vote,” according to NAACP.

The states affected include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, while other jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination, including counties and municipalities in other states, also are affected by the ruling.

The Constitution of the United States and, in particular, the 15th Amendment, makes clear that it is the job of Congress to figure out how to prevent racial discrimination in voting, according to Nan Aron, president and CEO of the Alliance for Justice (AFJ), a national association of more than 100 progressive organizations dedicated to nonprofit advocacy.

“By overturning a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act, five justices betrayed the principles of justice and fairness embodied in this law for half a century – and showed a callous disregard for the realities still faced by people of color,” Aaron said. She called on Congress to act to restore the power of the VRA “to serve as a bulwark against persistent discrimination.”

The Voting Rights Act protects a fundamental right, “not, as Justice (Antonin) Scalia infamously suggested, a ‘racial entitlement.’ Attempts to suppress the vote were common during the 2012 presidential election and they continue,” according to Aron.

“It’s important for people to see there are multiple layers in this case and decision,” said Delaney, adding that it would affect nonprofits indirectly. It appears to be a voting rights case on the surface but also raises the issue of power between governments and whether the federal government should exert certain powers over the stats, and at its core is about the separation of powers among the federal government and which should decide these matters, he said.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision, organizations and individuals could pull together evidence and submit it to the U.S. Department of Justice, which then would take the investigation further and be at the center of any litigation.

By eliminating DOJ from the preclearance equation, Delaney said individuals and organizations don’t have the resources to pull together the research and preparation needed for litigation. Organizations like the NAACP may have to be called on to fill that void without DOJ involved, he said.

Delaney is not optimistic that Congress can address the voting rights issue given that members are wrapped up in such fundamental issues like last week’s farm bill and the budgetary process. “I don’t anticipate there will be partisans on both sides who will leap forward to fix this quickly. It’s yet one more area for disagreement, which is unfortunately when talking about a core fundamental right of participation in democracy.”

Help the Nonprofit Community by Participating in a Survey!

Complete NPT’s 2013 Salary and Benefits Survey and you will receive a FREE Executive Summary of the results as well as 50% off the full report.

Click Here to Begin the Survey!


Sponsored Podcasts

Welcome to the Raise & Engage podcast, a filters-off series for nonprofit professionals hosted by Blackbaud's straight-shooting expert Danielle Johnson Vermenton. During this open-mic session, you’ll hear honest advice to help YOU do more for your cause.

Episode 6: The Power of ‘No’ at Work|| daniellejohnson-76

You have a job description, but on any given day, you're probably doing dozens of things outside the scope of that description. Combine that with the challenge of a fast-paced environment and the shifting priorities of funders, colleagues, and board members and it’s easy to fall short of doing your best. By being mindful of your limitations and capacity—and saying “no” when your plate is full—you can actually do more for your cause. In the sixth installment of the Raise and Engage podcast Danielle Johnson and Robin Anderson discuss the power of saying “no” at work.

Episode 5: Professional Development: Getting Un-Stuck|| daniellejohnson-76

In the most recent episode of Raise + Engage, Danielle is back with Brian Reich from little m media to discuss how nonprofit professionals can stay motivated and energized in their day-to-day roles. Brian shares his experience working with nonprofits and the lessons and tips he's learn from and shared with them over the years, including tips for avoiding a professional rut, creating forward momentum in your career and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you're considering making a career move or want to ensure you're on the right path, you won't want to miss this inspo-packed episode!

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane, is all about tips, tricks and tools for sanity. Blackbaud’s own interactive product marketer, Julia Lenz, joins host Danielle Johnson to share some high tech. (and no tech.) productivity tips to help nonprofit professionals stay sane in the crazy world of philanthropy.

Tune in to hear:

  • Tips for how to spend the first 30 minutes of your day
  • The benefits of 15 minute meetings
  • Why notebooks are still relevant to a successful organization
  • Ideas for better managing your inbox
  • Why you should take lunch outside the box
  • ...and much more!
Don’t forget to visit the #NoFilterNonprofit Hub afterwards to download our newest tip sheet10 Productivity Hacks for Nonprofits.

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff In episode 3 of the Raise + Engage podcast, Danielle Johnson is joined by Chris Geady and William DaSilva, two IT experts in the nonprofit space, to talk technology integration for NPOs: when you need it, when you don’t, and how to do it successfully.

Tune in to hear:

  • When to say NO to integration
  • How to set your strategic plan before even looking at technologies
  • Ways to get your entire team on board
  • The importance of identifying a project lead
  • The RFP process - how it should and should not go
And William shares a story about a nonprofit that may or may not have still been using a typewriter. You don't want to miss this one!

Episode 2: From Socially Awkward to Socially Awesome! || daniellejohnson-76

According to Danielle Johnson, straight-shooting host of the Raise + Engage podcast series, if your staff members aren’t the number one advocates for your cause on social media, you’re failing. In the most recent episode, Danielle is joined by Blackbaud’s own social media guru Madeline Turner to discuss overcoming social struggles and creating a social ambassador program at your organization. This entertaining and insightful duo dishes on the importance of making your social media presence human, making the case for a formal social program to leadership, how University of Michigan turned a one time social media campaign into a long term social program, and how Madeline's mom unknowingly became a social ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Episode 1: Corporate Culture & Development: Shake It Up! || daniellejohnson-76

In the premiere episode of Raise & Engage, Danielle is joined by three straight-shooting nonprofit rock-stars: Jodi Smith of Sanford Health Systems, Veronica Brown of Chicago Public Library Foundation and Ali Burke of Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The group talks organizational culture, problem employees, why its important to celebrate and how to shake things up this year and build a better more authentic team that gets stuff done!


Stay informed, catch latest trends in the nonprofit space.

Subscribe to Our Free Newsletter

No obligation, unsubscribe at anytime.

Success! Check your email inbox.

Follow Us On Twitter

NPT 2016 Buyers' Guide

Newsletter Sign-up

click here to return to the previous page