On the opening episode of Season Two of Justice Above All, the Thurgood Marshall Institute team explores how access to the ballot can make Black communities healthier. In 2022, the American Medical Association classified voting as a social determinant of health. Equal and fair ballot access is the pinnacle of a healthy, functioning democracy, and it also has crucial downstream impacts for physical, mental, and emotional health.  Dr. Sandhya Kajeepeta, TMI Senior Researcher, walks listeners through the impacts voting has on the health of our communities. 

More From The Episode

Shelby County v. Holder

Shelby County v. Holder is a seminal voting rights case that dismantled essential protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The case has had a devastating impact on voting rights and redistricting. In April 2010, Shelby County, Alabama filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the law’s “preclearance requirement,” which is widely regarded as the heart of the legislation. The Legal Defense Fund intervened in the case on behalf of Black residents of Shelby County whose voting rights were directly impacted by the county’s challenge. 

Preclearance was an approval process that states with a history of discriminatory voting laws had to undergo before implementing new laws or changing existing voting laws. Changes had to be reviewed by the federal government and the jurisdiction had to provide proof that the change would not discriminate against voters on the basis of race before being implemented.

While the Supreme Court did not strike down Section 5, the Court invalidated the coverage formula defined in Section 4, which determined where the preclearance requirement applied. Without that formula, or a new version passed by Congress, preclearance became inoperable, and states began to enact discriminatory and burdensome voting laws with a ferocity that has required around the clock litigation to roll back. With a key protection for the right to vote gone, organizations like the Legal Defense Fund have developed robust strategies for ensuring equal access to the ballot in key states that were once protected by the preclearance formula. 

"Social factors are so very important...We want them to express and exercise their right to vote. However, they're gonna put that on the back burner when they are trying to find out how they're gonna pay next month's rent."

"Does My Vote Count:" A Short film featuring Dr. Brenda Williams

Play Video

Combating Voter Suppression

The Legal Defense Fund’s Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender teams works on the ground in key states to support Black political engagement and protect voting rights. Since the Shelby County decision unleashed a torrent of voter suppression laws across the country, the work of PTV/VRD has become even more robust. 

Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender
LDF's Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender teams work to protect voting rights and support Black political engagement through advocacy, legislation, and litigation.

"I think about voting as an act of power, an act of justice, and an act of love."

After general and midterm election, LDF releases a report detailing key findings from the election. Despite reports that the 2020 election “went smoothly,” Black voters faced a multitude of hurdles and impediments to their right to vote. Democracy Defended chronicles some of the major issues Black voters faced during the 2020 Election.