Voting Rights in the 21st Century

In Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a comprehensive 151-page opinion, Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The decision addressed section 5 “preclearance” requirement which remains a constitutional exercise of Congress’ anti-discrimination authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. This was a major victory in ongoing efforts to “banish the blight of racial discrimination in voting.” Judge Bates’ rejected Shelby County’s challenge to Congress’ 2006 near-unanimous renewal of the Act’s preclearance requirement. The preclearance requirement obligates states and localities with a history of discrimination in voting – mostly in the South and Southwest – to obtain federal approval before implementing any changes in a voting “standard, practice, or procedure.” Preclearance is obtained by demonstrating, either to the Attorney General or the D.C. District Court, that the change does not have a discriminatory purpose or effect. The U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. circuit, will hear an appeal of Judge Bates’ ruling on January 19, 2012.

For more on this topic, see the Brooklyn Law School Library ‘s “The Law Is Good”: The Voting Rights Act, Redistricting, and Black Regime Politics by Steven Andrew Light with chapters The Voting Rights Act and minority representation — The struggle for voting rights — The Voting Rights Act of 1965 : passage and provisions — The Supreme Court’s redistricting revolution — Voting rights and Black representation in Tallulah — Voting rights in the 21st century : do we still need the Voting Rights Act? — Selected provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — Selected documents from the U.S. Department of Justice. A Google preview of this book is available here.