Now more than ever: Five reasons why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is needed

Our friends at Legal Progress have this informative post today about why Section 5 of the Voting Rights is still needed.

Yes, we have made progress in ending discriminatory voting practices, as author Sandhya Bathija notes:

Thanks to the Voting Rights Act and Section 5, the United States has made immense progress in protecting and expanding the right to vote. In Section 5-covered jurisdictions, change is happening, although slowly, but it may not have happened at all if it were not for the Voting Rights Act and Section 5. The changes we see include:

  • The election of the first African American president
  • A higher percentage of African American elected officials—the number of which has increased from just 300 nationwide in 1964 to more than 9,100 today
  • The highest-ever percentage of African Americans in Mississippi’s state legislature—27 percent—since the first African American to Mississippi’s state legislature was elected in 1967, following the passage of the Voting Rights Act
  • A more diverse electorate

Racial discrimination continues to be a problem in our country, particularly in Section 5-covered states. Section 5 serves as a shield to protect minority voters in jurisdictions where progress has come slowly and continues to be a necessary remedy to disenfranchisement. Without it, minority voters would be in jeopardy—and so too would our democracy.

But there are still plenty of recent examples, large and small, that remind us that Section 5 is needed, including this one from Pitt County, N.C.:

In 2011 the Pitt County School District in North Carolina decided to reduce the number of school board members from 12 to 7 and shorten their terms in office. Section 5 blocked the change from going into effect after the Department of Justice determined that such a change would decrease representation of minority-preferred candidates on the school board.

3 Comments

  1. david esmay

    February 19, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Attacks on voting rights, voter id laws, attempts to change electoral college votes and gerrymandering at unprecedented levels are just more signs the GOP is in it’s death throes and they know it.
    When facts and history refute the basic tenets of your ideology, your party leadership’s only role is to undermine government and society and you are presented with a dying demographic base, the options for survival are few and desperate.

  2. Roger Clegg, Ctr for Equal Opportunity

    February 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Here’s why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is bad policy, outdated, unconstitutional, and ought to be struck down by the Supreme Court: http://www.pacificlegal.org/opeds/Overturn-unconstitutional-Voting-Rights-Act

    What’s especially ironic is that the principal use to which Section 5 is put today is forcing jurisdictions to create and maintain racially segregated and gerrymandered voting districts – which is completely at odds with the original ideals of the Civil Rights Movement.

    There are other federal laws available to protect the rights of voters, and they don’t raise the problems that Section 5 does.

  3. david esmay

    February 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Roger, in states like NC and much of the south, it is the only way for minority voter’s voices to be heard. If all states had non-partisan independent panels that drew voting districts based solely on population it would be different. In NC we’ve got people like Art Pope and the lunatics at RedMap drawing around neighborhoods where incumbents live, or drawing people out of their districts for purely political reasons.
    I respect the fact that as a lawyer for the government you’ve studied this much more than I, but you represent a conservative think tank, an oxymoron, in and of itself, and you’re basing your argument on a position established by another one.