Non-profit

Shelby Response Fund

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Formation:

2013

Type:

Donor Collaborative Fund

Project of:

NEO Philanthropy

The Shelby Response Fund is a donor collaborative of the left-of-center pass-through nonprofit NEO Philanthropy, NEO Philanthropy’s State Infrastructure Fund, and the MacArthur Foundation. The Shelby Response Fund was established in 2013 following the June 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder decision, which found parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional for requiring local governments to obtain federal preclearance with the U.S. Department of Justice prior to implementing changes in voting laws.

Background

Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, certain states with historically low voting turnout among ethnic minorities were required to obtain federal review of any changes to their voting procedures. In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for “imposing current burdens” upon local governments “that are no longer responsive to the conditions in the voting districts in question” by the case. Justice Clarence Thomas called the preclearance requirement “blatant discrimination against certain voters” in his concurring opinion. [1]

Creation of the Shelby Response Fund

The Shelby Response Fund was created shortly after the Supreme Court case Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder in June 2013 as a project of NEO Philanthropy. Initial funders included the MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), Southern Coalition for Law and Justice, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Advancement Project. [2]

According to the MacArthur Foundation, the Fund’s initial goal was “to support legal, organizing, and public education work focused on protecting voting rights in states formerly covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.” [3]

Political Activities

Reports

According to a 2015 document detailing the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs board meeting, the Shelby Response Fund released an April 2015 book entitled Voting Rights in
a Post-Shelby World: Mapping the Course for 2015 and Beyond
. According to the document, the report: [4]

highlights an “exploding” need for voting rights litigation; the need for local and state advocates to increase their capacity to fully identify discriminatory election changes; the importance of communications and messaging strategies; and the connections to the broader movement for democracy and racial and social justice.

Funding

The MacArthur Foundation provided the Shelby Response Fund with $500,000 in startup funding in 2014. In 2015, it provided the Fund with another $500,000. [5]

Initial funders to the Fund included the MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), Southern Coalition for Law and Justice, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Advancement Project. [6]

Later funders included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Native American Rights Fund. [7]

According to a 2015 report for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law board meeting, MALDEF used the Shelby Response Fund to “pass-through” $92,000 to the Lawyers Committee “for post-Shelby litigation.” [8]

References

  1. Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. Oyez. 2013. https://www.oyez.org/cases/2012/12-96 ^
  2. Julie Fernandes. “Congress Has a Chance to Restore—and Strengthen—the Voting Rights Act.” Open Society Foundations. October 26, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/congress-has-chance-restore-and-strengthen-voting-rights-act ^
  3. “NEO Philanthropy.” MacArthur Foundation. Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.macfound.org/grantees/668/ ^
  4. “OPEN SOCIETY U.S. PROGRAMS BOARD MEETING.” May 7-8, 2015. Accessed May 31, 2019. Original URL: https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifesite/-usp_may_2015_board_book.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/05/Open-Society-Foundations-2015-US-Programs-Board-Meeting-Doc.pdf ^
  5. “NEO Philanthropy.” MacArthur Foundation. Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.macfound.org/grantees/668/ ^
  6. Julie Fernandes. “Congress Has a Chance to Restore—and Strengthen—the Voting Rights Act.” Open Society Foundations. October 26, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/congress-has-chance-restore-and-strengthen-voting-rights-act ^
  7. Eric Teasley Linnick. “As U.S. Elections Near, a String of Voting Rights Victories.” Open Society Foundations. August 17, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/us-elections-near-string-voting-rights-victories ^
  8. “Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: Board of Directors and Trustees Meeting.” Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. September 21, 2015. Accessed May 31, 2019. Original URL: https://lawyerscommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/September-2015-Board-book.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/05/Lawyers-Committee-2015-Board-Book.pdf. ^
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Shelby Response Fund

45 W 36TH ST FL 6
NEW YORK, NY 10018-7635