Attorney General Headshot

Attorney General Marty Jackley

Attorney General Seal

United States Supreme Court Rules Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act Unconstitutional


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE :    Tuesday, June 25, 2013
CONTACT:  Sara Rabern (605)773-3215   

      United States Supreme Court Rules Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act Unconstitutional

PIERRE, S.D  -   Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the United States Supreme Court has found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. The 1965 Voting Rights Act was originally passed to address “entrenched” racial discrimination in voting. In the words of our highest Court, the Act authorized “federal intrusion into sensitive areas of state and local policymaking” that constituted “extraordinary legislation otherwise unfamiliar to our federal system”. 

“Today’s decision is a victory for state’s rights and federalism. The federal government and the ACLU required the preclearance of 3,333 laws passed by our legislature without a single determination of any racial prejudice. Racial discrimination should not be tolerated, nor should a federal government that fails to provide meaningful protections at the expense of state and constitutional rights,” said Jackley.

Based upon the overreaching preclearance obligations imposed on South Dakota and two of its counties, the State joined numerous states as Amicus Curie or friend of the Court, attacking the constitutionality of Section 4.  In South Dakota, Todd and Shannon counties were required to obtain permission from federal authorities in Washington D.C. before implementing any new law relating to voting. The State of South Dakota provided assistance to Todd and Shannon counties by preclearing 3,333 voting changes to statutes and rules as a result of a 2002 lawsuit brought by the ACLU against both counties and the Secretary of State. The Department of Justice precleared every submission made on behalf of Todd and Shannon counties.

In striking down Section 4 of the Act, the Court found that the conditions that originally justified placing jurisdictions under preclearance requirements no longer existed. In 2009, the Court expressed serious doubt about the Act’s continued constitutionality.    Congress’ continued failure to consider current conditions and “rely simply on the past” resulted in today’s decision striking down Section 4.  Other sections of the Act that are intended to protect minority voting rights are not impacted by today’s decision.