Skip to main content Accessibility

Shelby decision did a decade of harm to voting rights

On Aug. 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to protect the voting rights of Black, Brown and other people of color citizens.

President Lyndon B. Johnson is surrounded by people as he signs law
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on Aug. 6, 1965, in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Associated Press)

The VRA outlaws discriminatory voting practices and requires jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voter suppression to seek preclearance from the federal government before creating or modifying any voting practices or procedures. Essentially, state and local governments with a history of abuse need to ask for permission before changing how they administered elections.

It’s been called the nation’s most effective piece of civil rights legislation.

• REPORT: Shelby County v. Holder continuously harms voting rights in Deep South

And then, in 2013, all of that changes. Here are some details of how voting rights have suffered.

June 25, 2013

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court guts the VRA. The opinion strikes down a key provision eliminating a critical accountability tool that had protected the voting rights of Black, Indigenous and other people of color in jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices for almost a half-century.

June 2013

Alabama advances a restrictive photo ID law, with Mississippi and other states following close behind.

August 2015

Alabama attempts to close 31 driver license offices concentrated in the Black Belt, but is partially reversed after public outcry.

July 2016

North Carolina photo ID law struck down in North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory.

William Barber at podium surrounded by numerous people
North Carolina NAACP President William Barber speaks during a news conference at the Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond, Virginia, on June 21, 2016. (Credit: Steve Helber/AP)

November 2016

For the first time in more than 50 years, the nation votes for a president without a fully functioning Voting Rights Act.

July 2017

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp purges over a half-million voters in a single day – an estimated 107,000 of these people are removed because they had not voted in recent elections.

August 2017

For the first time, Alabama introduces a list of offenses that bar the right to vote. And voters who don’t fall within those offenses must still apply to the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles for a certificate of eligibility to register to vote and must pay all fines, fees, restitution and other costs before getting a certificate.

June 2018

SCOTUS issues opinion in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, permitting states to purge infrequent voters from their rolls.

July 2018

A Brennan Center analysis finds that jurisdictions no longer subject to preclearance have higher voter purge rates for the two prior election cycles than jurisdictions that were not covered by the VRA in 2013.

November 2018

Florida voters overwhelmingly pass Amendment 4, restoring rights to approximately 1.4 million formerly incarcerated individuals.

Trump supporters shouting about attempts to “steal the vote” at a local election office descend upon election workers in Broward County, Florida, which has one of the largest Black populations in South Florida.

June 2019

Going against the voters of the state, Florida passes SB 7066, adding other financial obligations to be satisfied before restoring an individual’s right to vote. For many, this financial hurdle equals permanent disenfranchisement.

November 2020

About 2 million people are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction in the Deep South in the general election.

March 2021

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs omnibus bill SB 202, banning food and drink distribution at the polls and cutting the runoff period by about half. SB 202 also authorized partisan control of local election boards, leading some congregations to move their “Souls to the Polls” efforts to Saturday after several counties eliminated Sunday voting.

May 2021

Florida bans the use of private donations for elections.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs omnibus bill SB 90, includes a broad solicitation ban that many believe could be interpreted as a line relief ban.

August 2021

Census Bureau releases redistricting data for states to begin redistricting efforts, the first redistricting process without the full protections of the VRA; in the 2021 redistricting cycle, a total of 46 lawsuits challenged congressional maps in 22 states.

Person uses pointer to highlight area of map of Alabama
At the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, state Sen. Rodger Smitherman compares congressional district maps during a special session on redistricting on Nov. 3, 2021. (Credit: Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

December 2021

Georgia’s state legislative map is challenged in Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Georgia.

January 2022

Louisiana withdraws from Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).

March 2022

Louisiana’s state legislative map is challenged in Nairne v. Ardoin.

April 2022

Florida establishes Office of Election Crimes and Security.

Alabama bans the use of private donations for elections.

Mississippi bans the use of private donations for elections.

June 2022

SCOTUS stays Robinson v. Ardoin pending Milligan decision.

July 2022

Georgia authorizes Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate election crimes.

October 2022

SCOTUS hears Allen v. Milligan (previously Merrill v. Milligan).

Evan Milligan at podium
Evan Milligan, center, plaintiff in Allen v. Milligan, speaks with members of the press following oral arguments outside the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 4, 2022. (Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP)

November 2022

About 2 million people are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction in the Deep South in the midterm election.

Between 2020 and 2022, Mississippi county election officials make almost 100 polling place location changes, with most of the changes going unreported on the state database used to provide voters with polling place details.

After Hurricane Ian devastated Florida in 2022, Lee County consolidates almost 100 polling locations into a dozen “super sites.”

December 2022

Mississippi’s state legislative map is challenged in Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP v. State Board of Election Commissioners.

People gather with cellphones to take photos of map on display
From left: Mississippi state Sens. Rod Hickman, Michael McLendon, Albert Butler and David Jordan review an alternate Senate redistricting map during debate on the floor of the Senate at the Mississippi state Capitol in Jackson on March 29, 2022. (Credit: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

SCOTUS hears Moore v. Harper.

January 2023

Alabama withdraws from ERIC.

As of January 2023, state legislatures in about 32 states pre-file or introduce 150 bills to restrict voting.

March 2023

Florida withdraws from ERIC.

Thirty-six states have photo ID requirements, with nine states, including Georgia and Mississippi, having the strictest photo ID laws in the country.

April 2023

The 11th Circuit upholds Florida SB 90 but strikes a part of the provision that had been relied on to potentially ban line relief as “unconstitutionally vague.”

May 2023

Georgia bans the use of private donations for elections.

June 2023

In a 5-4 ruling on Allen v. Milligan, SCOTUS orders Alabama to redraw its congressional map and add a second majority-Black district. It was a major victory for Black voters in Alabama and across the U.S.

Photo at top: Activists attend a Voting Rights Amendment Act rally in Capitol Hill June 25, 2014, in Washington. The rally marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)