Is the Voting Rights Act Constitutional?

On April 29, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments to decide whether Section 5 of the recently reauthorized Voting Rights Act is constitutional. The case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, has been described as "the biggest election-law case on the court's docket since Bush v. Gore" and one that "will set the direction of the debate over race and politics for years to come."

Reauthorized for the next twenty-five years in 2006, Section 5 requires nine states (mostly in the deep South) and parts of seven others to get "preclearance" from the U.S. Justice Department or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before any election procedures can be altered. Any change--as small as moving a polling location across the street or as large as redrawing an entire congressional district--must be preapproved by the federal government. This preclearance provision is unmatched in our nation's system of federalism.

With this case, the Court will be asked whether cities, school districts, and--in the case of the appellant--utility districts are allowed to use Section 5's "bail out" provision to be released from federal oversight. If not, the Court will face an even larger question: did Congress find enough evidence of gamesmanship directed against minority voters to justify reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, or did it overstep its authority? At this panel discussion, scholars and attorneys representing each side will discuss the legal and political issues the case raises. AEI visiting fellow Edward Blum will moderate.

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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.
  • Phone: 7035051922
    Email: eblum@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Neil McCray
    Phone: 2028625826
    Email: neil.mccray@aei.org

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

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Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

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