Striking down Section 5 would mark a return to constitutional order

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Article Highlights

  • Nearly 4 years ago, the #SCOTUS signaled that Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act needed modernization.

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  • It is now up to the #SCOTUS to declare the outdated Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional.

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  • If the #SCOTUS strikes down Sections 4(b) & 5 of the Voting Rights Act, important constitutional order will be restored.

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Editor's note: This article originally appeared in US News & World Report's Debate Club in response to the question: Should the Supreme Court strike down the 'preclearance' provision of the Voting Rights Act?

Nearly four years ago, in an important case from Texas, the justices on the Supreme Court signaled that Sections (4b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act were in grave need of modernization. Sadly, Congress and the administration ignored this suggestion, so it is now up to the Court to declare these provisions unconstitutional. That welcome outcome would validate what most Americans already believe—that minorities in the Deep South and elsewhere have the same opportunities to register to vote and participate in elections as do minorities in the rest of the country.

Back in 1965, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was necessary to overcome the never-ending mischief that election officials employed to keep African-Americans from registering and voting. But those days are long gone. Today, in the states and jurisdictions still subject to the "preclearance" requirement of Section 5 (which prohibits any changes in election laws or procedures before Washington's approval) minorities register to vote and turn out in elections at rates that exceed those of whites. It makes no sense today for Alaska, Arizona, and Alabama to be subject to these requirements, but not Nevada, Arkansas, or Tennessee.

As the Court wrote in the Texas case, "The evil that Section 5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. ... The statute's coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions."

The time has come to end the punishment and federal bureaucratic oversight of nearly 25 percent of the nation's population.

If the Supreme Court strikes down these provisions, as it should, an important constitutional order will be restored: All 50 states must be treated equally under our system of laws.

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About the Author

 

Edward
Blum
  • Edward Blum is also the director of the Project on Fair Representation. He studies civil rights policy issues such as voting rights, affirmative action, and multiculturalism. Prior to joining AEI, he facilitated the legal challenge to dozens of racially gerrymandered voting districts and race-based school admissions and public contracting programs throughout the nation. He is the author of The Unintended Consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (AEI Press, 2007). The book describes how in recent years the Voting Rights Act has caused minority voters to become pawns in partisan redistricting battles, diminished competitive elections, driven the creation of bug-splat-like voting districts, and contributed to the ideological polarization of voting districts.
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    Email: eblum@aei.org
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