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New SPLC Report Documents Lasting Impact of Shelby County v. Holder on Voting Rights in the Deep South

Report makes the case for the restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act to protect rights and representation for communities of color 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, nearly every county in the South has implemented policies that make it more difficult for people of color to vote and elect leaders that represent them, a new report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found.   

In A Decade-Long Erosion: The Impact of the Shelby County Decision on the Political Participation and Representation of Black People and Other People of Color in the Deep South, the SPLC assesses the impact of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, which allowed state legislatures to bypass the federal review  process under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The report describes how Southern states — including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi — exploited the court’s ruling by stripping voting rights and representation from communities of color, despite increasing diversity across the Deep South.  

“The Shelby County v. Holder decision changed the landscape of voting rights in the Deep South and across the nation,” said LaShawn Warren, chief policy officer for the Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund. “A decade later, we must acknowledge the lasting impact of this landmark ruling and what it means for our democratic process, particularly at a moment in which voting rights are under relentless attack.” 

For the past decade, voters of color in the Deep South have been subject to hours-long voter lines, arbitrary polling place changes, voter roll purges, gerrymandered redistricting processes, felony disenfranchisement laws, onerous restrictions on early voting and vote-by-mail options and more, the report states.  

On the heel of record voter turnout during the 2020 general election, at least 19 states passed 34 voter suppression laws in 2021 — the highest number of laws in a decade. Several of these bills, such as Georgia’s SB 202 (2021) and Florida’s SB 90 (2021), allowed states to suppress voting rights in several ways with a single pen stroke.  These voter suppression tactics are often coupled with inadequate funding of election infrastructure, placing increasing pressure on election officials to carry out effective elections with limited resources.  

The SPLC report offers foundational context to help advocates for democracy build, support and protect the voting rights of Black, Indigenous and other people of color in the South and nationwide. It includes six policy proposals, including restoring and strengthening the Voting Rights Act to protect and expand meaningful access to the ballot box to ensure a multiracial, inclusive democracy.  

“With so many issues on the line — reproductive rights, education, and public safety — the time is now to cut through partisan efforts to manipulate access to the ballot and undermine democracy,” said Andrea McChristian, policy research director for the Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund. “On the anniversary of the Shelby decision, we must recommit ourselves, as a nation, to the principles of democracy and protect and expand the fundamental right to vote once and for all.” 

The full report can be found HERE.