The Supreme Court and the 1965 Voting Rights Act

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Dr. Rogers Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, chairs the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism. He is a scholar in constitutional law and American political thought, with a special interest in questions of citizenship, race, ethnicity and gender.  He is author of numerous publications including Still a House Divided: Race & Politics in Obama’s America (with Desmond S. King). 

Quote: "Political scientists have long noted that Congress has been re-enacting the Voting Rights Act without careful attention to whether its remedies are well tailored to address current abuses, and that left the law legally vulnerable.  It addresses some problems that no longer exist and misses newer ones.  But in a country with a long history of voting discrimination, there is no question that a strong Voting Rights Act is still needed -- and Shelby County's record of altering electoral systems for invidious purposes is a prime example of why that is so."

            Media contact: Jacquie Posey at 215-898-6460 or


Theodore Ruger, professor in the University of Pennsylvania Law School, is a constitutional expert whose scholarship focuses on the application of judicial authority.

Quote: “In his Shelby County v. Holder majority opinion invalidating a key portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Chief Justice Roberts stressed that ‘things have changed dramatically’ over the past 50 years and that ‘history did not end in 1965.’  These words are clearly apt when applied to the Supreme Court’s decision the following day striking down the Defense of Marriage Act; few could have imagined on DOMA’s passage in 1996 that public (and judicial) attitudes would shift so substantially in favor of same-sex marriage in less than two decades.  

“Yet the theme of a changed world is more problematic and ambiguous within the realm of unequal minority access to political power, the issue area where the Chief Justice made those assertions in the Shelby case.” Read more

            Media contact: Steve Barnes at 215-898-5181