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Friday, February 22, 2013

Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2013

IU legal expert available to discuss Supreme Court voting-rights case

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Feb. 22, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday, Feb. 27, on Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires jurisdictions in nine Southern states to get federal approval for changes in voting and election laws.

Michael Pitts, professor of law and dean's fellow at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, says Shelby County v. Holder is the most important election law case to reach the Supreme Court since Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 presidential election.

"The Supreme Court seems poised to strike down what has often been called the 'heart' of the Voting Rights Act: the preclearance requirement found in Section 5," Pitts said. "A decision to strike down Section 5 of the act would have enormous consequences for the structure of American democracy. It would impact all aspects of voting, from redistricting to photo identification, and all levels of government, from Congress to state to local. The stakes couldn't be higher."

Pitts has commented on Reuters' "The Great Debate" blog about the likely effects of striking down Section 5: the passage of strict voter identification laws at the state level and redistricting and election statutes that dilute the power of minority voters at the city and county levels. In a SCOTUS Blog post, he speculates that, since the court passed on an opportunity to strike down Section 5 four years ago, it may again let the law stand today.

Reporters may contact Pitts at 317-278-9155 or For assistance, contact Elizabeth Allington at 317-278-3038 or

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