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Voting Rights, Part 3: After Shelby County

Now that we have discussed what the Voting Rights Act is, and gone through some current voting rights restrictions in Virginia, let's discuss the voting rights landscape after the 2013 Shelby County decisionIf you haven't read Part 2 of this series, I suggest you start there!

QUICK REVIEW: Remember, Shelby County overturned Section 4, effectively nullifying Section 5. Section 5 is the heart of the VRA, so the VRA has basically been gutted.

For the most beautiful infographic (besides ours, below), check out this one from the NAACP.


This section of the VRA prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the identified language minority groups (see Section 4). 

Section 2 has a bunch of legal requirements for bringing a Section 2 legal claim. For example, the plaintiff may show a violation of the section if the evidence established that, in the context of the "totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process," the standard, practice, or procedure being challenged had the result of denying a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

For more jibber-jabber on that, check out this page from the Dept. of Justice.


As recently as 2012, Section 5 blocked statewide discriminatory limits on voting in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas.

Roberts, in his Shelby County decision, says such a blanket rule is no long applicable in modern society. However, Mother Jones published this article, explaining how the country hasn't changed as much as Chief Justice Roberts may think.

After SCOTUS nullified Section 4, states previously limited by their discriminatory history re: voting rights introduced significant new restrictions. Some states, such as Texas, did so with hours of the SCOTUS decision (lookin' at you, Texas).

As the Brennan Center so eloquently puts it, "Between 1982 and 2006 (when Congress overwhelmingly renewed the law), the Voting Rights Act blocked more than 1,000 proposed discriminatory voting changes. Without Section 5’s protection, these changes would have gone into effect and harmed minority voters."

Does that law sound unnecessarily antiquated to you? Yeah. No.

This backtracking by the Justice Dept. is not surprising. It demonstrates what is predicted under 45's Administration. As the New York Times states, "the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is expected to undergo the most severe shift in philosophy of any section under the Trump administration, and Mr. Sessions appears to be quickly meeting those expectations. On a number of civil rights and voting measures during his days in the United States Senate, Mr. Sessions saw the federal government as improperly meddling in issues he said should best be left to the states."

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