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Voting Rights Act


  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Michael Lind: A No-Lose Fix for the Voting Rights Act

    Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation.By striking down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and thereby gutting the act’s Section 5, the Supreme Court has presented defenders of voting rights in America with a challenge—and a historic opportunity. The challenge is the need to avert a new wave of state and local laws restricting voting rights in the aftermath of the Court’s decision. The opportunity is the chance that Congress now has to universalize Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, to make it apply to all 50 states.

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Gavin Wright: Voting Rights Act Brought Major Economic Benefits

    Gavin Wright is the William Robertson Coe professor of American economic history at Stanford University. He is the author of “Sharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South.”The Supreme Court’s rejection yesterday of a central element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act took aim at a measure that not only broke down barriers to political participation in the South but also made significant contributions to the economic wellbeing of black southerners and to the region as a whole.Some of the economic benefits were apparent almost immediately after enactment. Surveys reported more paved roads and streetlights in black residential areas, better access to city and county services, and increased black hiring in public-sector jobs, including police and fire departments.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Jim Sleeper: Don't Panic About the Voting Rights Ruling. Re-Strategize.

    Yes, the Supreme Court, in Shelby v. Holder, has gutted the Voting Rights Act's requirement that state and local jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination obtain federal approval before they can alter an election-district line, move a polling place, or impose voter-registration requirements, such as photo I.D.'s.(I applaud Lani Guinier's suggestion yesterday, seconding Alabama civil-rights attorney James Blackshire, that, under the circumstances, every U. S. Attorney should deputize an assistant to litigate abuses that the Justice Department was empowered to prevent administratively until now.)

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Minn. lawmaker apologizes for ‘Uncle Thomas’ tweet after Supreme Court voting rights ruling

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Democratic legislator from Minnesota swiftly apologized Tuesday for a tweet he sent that referred to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Thomas” following a major ruling on the nation’s landmark voting rights law.Thomas, who is black, was part of a 5-4 majority that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act meant to deter racial discrimination in elections. The ruling makes it tougher for federal officials to prevent states and localities, primarily in the South, from adopting policies that add barriers to voting.In response, state Rep. Ryan Winkler tweeted: “#SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court’s backsliding.”...

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Eric Foner: VRA Decision "Green Light" to Disenfranchise Voters

    Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. looks on. Credit: Wiki Commons.The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has struck down the critical Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 legislation that banned discriminatory practices in federal, state, and local election laws.The Voting Rights Act was formulated to target areas with a history of poll tests and historically low registration and turnout for federal oversight. Jurisdictions that fall under the Act's authority are required to pre-clear changes in local election laws with the federal government,Section 4 determined the mechanism of determining the target areas; Section 5 of the Act, which provides for the actual pre-clearance requirement itself, was not ruled upon by the Court.In his majority opinion Chief Justice John Roberts wrote“today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

  • Originally published 04/15/2013

    Towards a New History of the Civil Rights Movement

    LBJ signs the Voting Rights Act while Martin Luther King, Jr. looks on.Hilary Rodham Clinton awoke on the morning of January 3, 2008, exhausted and depressed. The New York Senator had started her quest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination believing in its inevitability, only to be surprisingly blindsided by Barack Obama, a forty-six year old first term Senator. Only a few hours earlier, Obama had crushed Clinton in the Iowa caucus and now her advisors feared defeat in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. She was stunned while her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was furious. “[Obama’s] a phony,” Clinton insisted, “…he has no experience…What has he really done?”

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    Why We Still Need the Voting Rights Act

    Mug shot of Olen Burrage in 1964.The expected gutting of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder has captured many headlines of late, and with good reason. Less than fifty years removed from the VRA’s passage and in the face of mounting state-by-state efforts to restrict the franchise, the Roberts Court appears poised to undo one of the civil rights movement’s hallmark achievements. As an array of voting rights advocates and legal experts have demonstrated, such a decision would make it substantially more costly and difficult for citizens and organizations to challenge voting restrictions that are discriminatory in intent or effect.

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