Another View of the Section 5 Voting Rights Case

A longtime reader of the blog writes of my “What’s Lost If the Voting Rights Falls” piece at Slate:

I assume you don’t write the headlines, but can we dispense with the “strike down the Voting Rights Act” phraseology [Google it!] that has been rampant regarding the Shelby County case? (..or in this case…”…Voting Rights Act Falls?”)  You accurately explain that in fact, changes to only one provision are being contemplated, hence the idea that VRA will “fall” is borderline yellow journalism. And to that end, you never mention Section 2 at all, let alone explain that Section 2 is the primary means to address voting inequities, and that it will remain as the core component of VRA enforcement. I suppose “Supreme Court May Require Congress to Update Voting Formula” doesn’t sell newspapers. Yes, I realize your article was addressing the “bargaining chip” aspect of Section 5, but repeat it enough, and “strike down the Voting Rights Act” will be the headline when SCOTUS rules. That only serves to rile up the masses, but for what purpose? Frankly, given that SCOTUS has already upheld Section 5 as a valid exercise of Congressional power when warranted by specific evidence in limited geographical areas, I’ll predict that Section 5, per se, is upheld, and Section 4 will be rejected. You can hardly object to the idea of requiring Congress to update the coverage formula since you have supported this idea in the past. You have said that doing so is a “political problem”, but that’s with your thumb on the scale on the side of those who want the existing states to remain covered. If there were truly an objective formula that could root out evidence of significant government sponsored racial discrimination, who would oppose it?

Despite hanging your hat on the finding against Texas (which, as you are well aware, has not had appellate review), Section 5 proponents consistently fail to acknowledge a fundamental difference regarding redistricting that has occurred since the 60s and 70s: in the South of those days, it was the white Democrats discriminating against the minority Democrats. Hence, there could be no argument that redistricting changes were driven by party preference. They were all in the same party!! That is no longer true, and it is objectively apparent that GOP dominated states attempt to do “political” redistricting to discriminate against Democrats (legally, as the Dems do likewise in MD, IL, etc.), not against minorities in general. After all, who was the biggest target of the GOP in the 2012 redistricting in Texas? Lloyd Doggett — a white Democrat.

I’m writing something broader which will respond to these points on the merits, but I should point out that I am responsible for that headline and stand by it (though more accurate to have said “What’s Lost if A Key Part of the Voting Rights Act Falls?”).


Comments are closed.