Is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act Still Necessary?
About This Event
The constitutionality of some of the recently reauthorized provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) will be argued on September 17 before a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Gonzales may decide the fate of the most controversial provision authorized by Congress last year: Section 5 of the VRA. Section 5 requires all of nine states, and parts of seven others, to get permission from the U.S. Justice Department (less then one percent opt for permission from the U.S. District Court for D.C.) before any election procedures--including redistricting--can be changed.

Specifically, this court will consider legal questions such as: can a jurisdiction such as a school district, water board, or city seek “bailout”--that is, be exempted, from Section 5 of the VRA? Is Section 5 a “congruent and proportional” statutory provision under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent jurisprudence? Have racial attitudes in the Deep South and elsewhere changed enough in the last four decades that Section 5 no longer necessary?

At this AEI panel discussion, Greg Coleman (counsel to the plaintiff, Northwest Austin MUD Number One) and Jose Garza (counsel to defendant-intervenors) will summarize the arguments they will have made earlier in the day. Legal journalist Stuart Taylor will serve as critical discussant. AEI’s Edward Blum will moderate.

2:45 p.m.
3:00 p.m.
Greg Coleman, Yetter and Warden, L.L.P.
Jose Garza, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
Stuart Taylor Jr., National Journal
Edward Blum, AEI
4:20 p.m.
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  • 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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