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Shelby County, voting rights, Voting Rights Act, racial discrimination, NAMUDNO, Fifteenth Amendment


There are two ways to read the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County Alabama v. Holder: as a minimalist decision or as a decision that undermines the basic infrastructure of voting rights policy, law, and jurisprudence. In this Article, we present the case for reading Shelby County as deeply destabilizing. We argue that Shelby County has undermined three assumptions that are foundational to voting rights policy, law, and jurisprudence. First, the Court has generally granted primacy of the federal government over the states. Second, the Court has deferred to Congress particularly where Congress is regulating at the intersection of race and voting. Third, the Court and Congress have understood that racial discrimination is a problem and have operated from a similar conception of what racial discrimination means. Shelby County undermines all three assumptions. We explore what this means for voting rights policy, law, and jurisprudence going forward.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, Race discrimination, Constitution. 15th Amendment, Shelby County v. Holder, Voting, Voting Rights Act of 1965, United States