Shelby County v. Holder

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Shelby County v. Holder
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Citation 570 U.S. 529 (2013)
Date decided June 25, 2013
Appealed from U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit
Cited McCulloch v. Maryland
Case Opinions
majority written by John Roberts
joined by Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito
concurrence written by Clarence Thomas
dissent written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
joined by Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan


The Voting Rights Act of 1965, Section 5 required certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices. Section 4(b) contained the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance regime based on their histories of discrimination in voting.

Procedural History

Shelby County, Alabama sued U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. in the U.S. District Court for D.C., which found the Voting Rights Act of 1965 constitutional based on the Enforcement Clause of the 15th Amendment.

Shelby County appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which affirmed the lower court's decision.


Is Section 4(b) unconstitutional?


The coverage formula of Section 4(b) 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.


Yes, Section 4(b) is unconstitutional.




RBG dissent: "the Voting Rights Act fully satisfies the standard stated in McCulloch, 4 Wheat., at 421: Congress may choose any means 'appropriate' and 'plainly adapted to' a legitimate constitutional end."