Debate Club

Striking Down Section 5 Would Mark a Return to Constitutional Order

By SHARE

Nearly four years ago, in an important case from Texas, the justices on the Supreme Court signaled that Sections (4b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act were in grave need of modernization. Sadly, Congress and the administration ignored this suggestion, so it is now up to the Court to declare these provisions unconstitutional. That welcome outcome would validate what most Americans already believe—that minorities in the Deep South and elsewhere have the same opportunities to register to vote and participate in elections as do minorities in the rest of the country.

Back in 1965, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was necessary to overcome the never-ending mischief that election officials employed to keep African-Americans from registering and voting. But those days are long gone. Today, in the states and jurisdictions still subject to the "preclearance" requirement of Section 5 (which prohibits any changes in election laws or procedures before Washington's approval) minorities register to vote and turn out in elections at rates that exceed those of whites. It makes no sense today for Alaska, Arizona, and Alabama to be subject to these requirements, but not Nevada, Arkansas, or Tennessee.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

As the Court wrote in the Texas case, "The evil that Section 5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. ... The statute's coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions."

The time has come to end the punishment and federal bureaucratic oversight of nearly 25 percent of the nation's population.

If the Supreme Court strikes down these provisions, as it should, an important constitutional order will be restored: All 50 states must be treated equally under our system of laws.

Edward Blum

About Edward Blum Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

Tags
voters
civil rights
Supreme Court

Other Arguments

#1
31 Pts
Section 5 Is Still Crucial to Maintaining Americans' Right to Vote

No – Section 5 Is Still Crucial to Maintaining Americans' Right to Vote

Wendy Weiser Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law

#2
21 Pts
The Supreme Court Should Side with Congress on Voting Rights Act

No – The Supreme Court Should Side with Congress on Voting Rights Act

David Gans Director of the Human Rights, Civil Rights, and Citizenship Program at Constitutional Accountability Center

#3
15 Pts
Voting Rights Act's Section 5 Still Stopping Discrimination Today

No – Voting Rights Act's Section 5 Still Stopping Discrimination Today

Wade Henderson President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

#4
2 Pts
Voting Rights Act's 'Preclearance' Was Meant to be Temporary

Yes – Voting Rights Act's 'Preclearance' Was Meant to be Temporary

Hans A. Von Spakovsky Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

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