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Happy Law Day!

Today is the 53rd annual U.S. Law Day, a day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Though not a government holiday, Law Day was declared by President Eisenhower in 1958, and in 1961 became Public Law 87-20, codified at 36 U.S.C. 113. Every year on Law Day the President makes a proclamation inviting the nation to celebrate the importance of our Nation's legal and judicial systems.

Each law day is given a theme by the American Bar Association, and for Law Day 2014 it’s “ American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” celebrating the coming 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This year’s efforts focus on the importance of voting and of ensuring that our nation’s election laws and practices permit the broadest, least restrictive access to the ballot box.

There are no specific voter qualifications contained within the text of the Constitution. The Framers left that topic up to the states. For this reason, Amendments guaranteeing the right of women and African American men to vote are not phrased as grants of the right to vote, but instead as prohibitions on preventing individuals from voting because of their race or sex.

·         In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The landmark legislation tackled discriminatory voting restrictions head-on. Jurisdictions with a history of discrimination were required to get federal preclearance before enacting new voting procedures. Restrictions that had the impact of disenfranchising voters on the basis of race were prohibited.


·         In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the Voting Rights Act’s key provision, which required several states to receive preclearance from the federal government before  implementing voting changes, was invalid. The Court reasoned that the formula used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to preclearance because they had a history of discrimination was out of date.

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