A Localist Critique of Shelby County v. Holder

22 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2015

Date Written: June 1, 2015


In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court permitted a local government, Shelby County, to challenge the constitutionality of sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act on state sovereignty grounds. It did so without explaining why Shelby County deserved state sovereignty protection from federal intrusion. The conventional explanation — that local governments are administrative arms of the state — fails to grapple with the reality of diverse state-local relationships in election law. In fact, local governments maintain significant independence from states in the elections context. Local governments fund elections, train poll workers, and perform many of the core functions of election administration. Furthermore, states and their local governments are often at odds in election law litigation and come into conflict over controversial election laws like voter identification and early voting. This Essay thus critiques Shelby County from a localist perspective and argues that the opinion reveals a blind spot about local government, even as local government lies at the heart of election law and the Shelby County case itself.

Keywords: Election law, Voting Rights, Local governments, Constitutional law

Suggested Citation

Weinstein-Tull, Justin, A Localist Critique of Shelby County v. Holder (June 1, 2015). 11 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 291 (2015), Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2642108, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2642108

Justin Weinstein-Tull (Contact Author)

Arizona State University College of Law

111 E Taylor St.
Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law
Phoenix, AZ 85004
United States
5419683153 (Phone)

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