Among the many points made by Supreme Court writer and Yale Law professor Linda Greenhouse in her recent New York Times piece about the Voting Rights Act case, two are of particular note.
First, North Carolina joined New York, California and Mississippi in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Section 5, saying that its preclearance requirement “has provided ‘significant and measurable benefits’ in helping covered jurisdictions ‘move toward their goal of eliminating racial discrimination and inequities in voting.”’”
Second — and a point largely overlooked in the reporting on the case but certain to detract from the “once a covered jurisdiction always a covered jurisdiction” argument — jurisdictions can bail out of the requirements by demonstrating that they have maintained a clean voting-rights record for the previous 10 years. As Greenhouse further points out:
There has been a flurry of bailouts in [recent] years. Ten entire counties in Virginia, as well as cities there and in Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama, have been granted bailout authority by the Justice Department since 2010, with the elapsed time between application and exemption as short as six weeks. The option is clearly open to any jurisdiction that has earned it. In fact, since 1984, no jurisdiction seeking a bailout has been refused one.
Jurisdictions can also be bailed in on the basis of specific findings that they suffer from voter discrimination, a prospect that has at least some deterrent effect. It happened to New Mexico in 1982 and Arkansas in 1990.