ICYMI: After the ruling on the Voting Rights Act

From Library of Congress
From Library of Congress

My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Wednesday. While there has been a lot of hand-wringing over the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, in which the court threw out the coverage formula in section 4, which affects the preclearance rules of section 5, little attention has been paid to the other sections of the law.  There can’t be sections 4 and 5 without 2 and 3, right?

As I said several months ago, the coverage formula needs to be changed, which is what the court said four years ago and was the basis of throwing it out. But I honestly don’t expect Congress to do it. Not this Congress, which can’t agree on whether or not the sky is blue.

So we have to look to the other parts of the law to see what can be done. Sections 2 and 3 provide some relief, particularly section 3’s “bail in” procedures. I ran across a well-written explanation (pdf) of how this has worked in the past and could work for the future. In many ways, my research has convinced me that more use of section 3 may actually be better than the section 4/5 stuff. Yes, it may be harder, but it is outcomes we are concerned about, right?

I think DOJ needs to start moving on this right away. The states are rushing to implement laws previously blocked by section 5. Use of section 3 to prevent this seems to be the only alternative right now.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.

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One thought on “ICYMI: After the ruling on the Voting Rights Act

  1. “I think DOJ needs to start moving on this right away. The states are rushing to implement laws previously blocked by section 5. Use of section 3 to prevent this seems to be the only alternative right now.”

    But that’s just the thing: the “effects test” used in Section 5 cases, doesn’t reach any laws that are not the product of discriminatory intent. I’d say the prospects of immediate action are extremely low because the method of proof is different; it’d be difficult, in most cases, to prove discriminatory intent prior to a law’s passage or implementation.

    In any event, I tend to agree that Section 3 is a better means for addressing voting rights issues than the blunderbuss approach of Section 5. Racial discrimination isn’t wiped out, but I think everyone admits that it’s much better now than it was fifty years ago. Because of that, the more targeted approach of Section 3 just makes sense.

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