More on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
With just days left before the Supreme Court hears argument in the case seeking elimination of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder, legal analyst Andrew Cohen reminds us, in “After 50 Years, the Voting Rights Act’s Biggest Threat: The Supreme Court,” how far we came after the Act became law in 1965, and how fast we’d fall back if the Supreme Court throws out that section:
One of the great ironies of the Shelby County case is its timing. When county officials filed their declaratory action in April 2010 they had every reason to think that Section 5 was dead in the water.
But a funny thing happened to this challenge on its way to the Shelby County case. The entire landscape of voting rights changed in a relative blink. And the change restored and renewed the Act by reminding hundreds of millions of Americans, a whole new generation of voters, of the purpose and effect of the old law. So far no one has come up with an accurate count (or even a reliable ballpark figure) of how many Americans got to vote last election because the Voting Rights Act protected them from state or local election laws that would have disenfranchised them. But considering the number of successful challenges, not to mention the deterrent effect noted below, the number cannot be low.