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The Voting Rights Act Is a Grand Success!

August 6, 2015 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we should also celebrate the Supreme Court’s recent treatment of its protections.

In striking down Section 4(b) of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder two years ago, the Supreme Court restored a measure of constitutional order. Based on 40-year-old voting data that don’t reflect current political conditions, this provision subjected a seemingly random assortment of states and localities to onerous unusual federal oversight.

To be clear, neither minority voting rights nor the ability of the federal government to enforce those rights were at stake here. Both of those were, are and will be secure regardless of this case and its consequences.

Instead, the Court was considering whether the “exceptional conditions” and “unique circumstances” of the Jim Crow South still exist such that an “uncommon exercise of congressional power” is still constitutionally justified — to quote the 1966 ruling that approved the VRA’s Section 5 as an emergency measure.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we should also celebrate the Supreme Court’s recent treatment of its protections.”

As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the Court the previous time it looked at this law (2009), the “historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” but the modern uses of Section 5 — which requires federal “pre-clearance” of any changes in election regulation in certain jurisdiction — “raises serious constitutional concerns.” The provision maintains antiquated assumptions and flies in the face of the Fifteenth Amendment’s requirement that all voters be treated equally.

Yet Congress renewed Section 5 in 2006 without updating Section 4’s coverage formula, and it ignored the Court’s warning that “the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs.” Accordingly, it should be no surprise that the Court noted that “the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.”

For example, the racial gap in voter registration and turnout is lower in states originally covered by Section 5 than it is nationwide. Blacks in some covered states actually register and vote at higher rates than whites. Facetious tests and sinister devices are now permanently banned — while even individual violations are exceedingly rare and no more likely to occur in jurisdictions that Section 4 sweeps in than in the rest of the country.

The list of “covered” jurisdictions became bizarre: six states of the Old Confederacy, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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