The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated the coverage formula of the 1965 Voting Rights Act—the most effective civil rights law ever enacted—and has led to an assault on voting rights across the country. In its wake, state legislatures have passed discriminatory voter ID laws, rolled back early voting periods, and increased voter purges in what constitutes one of the greatest threats to American voting rights in more than a generation.
To respond to this crisis, the American Constitution Society, the Campaign Legal Center, and Georgetown University Law Center have launched the Voting Rights Institute to help attorneys, expert witnesses, law students, and the public combat discriminatory voting practices across the country.
Attorneys: The Voting Rights Institute seeks to train and empower the next generation of voting rights attorneys. To achieve this mission VRI has created a database of expert reports and legal documents to make it easier and more cost-effective for attorneys to locate material essential to obtaining judicial relief. VRI also hosts training seminars across the country to ensure that attorneys understand the nuances of voting rights litigation and how to properly interpret expert reports.
Experts: The Voting Rights Institute recognizes the importance of expert witnesses in interpreting voting rights claims and therefore seeks to ensure that attorneys handling voting rights cases have a wealth of scholars available to assist in litigation development and presentation.
Law Students: The Voting Rights Institute will be housed at Georgetown University Law Center, which will have a clinic, practicum, fellows, and educators dedicated to teaching voting rights law and litigating a select number of voting rights cases.
The Public: Finally, the Voting Rights Institute seeks to make essential voting rights information available to the public through its website and match those in need of redress with capable attorneys.
Shelby County underscored the fragility of past civil rights victories. However, with renewed dedication, the Voting Rights Institute hopes to ensure that future judicial decisions place value in the voices of all Americans and protect the right to vote from discriminatory attack.