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Should the Supreme Court Strike Down the 'Preclearance' Provision of the Voting Rights Act?

Should the Supreme Court Strike Down the 'Preclearance' Provision of the Voting Rights Act?

Since being signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been used to protect Americans' right to vote and prohibit limitations and barriers—often racially-based—placed on poll places, particularly in the South. Nearly half a century later, a provision of the law, Section 5, may be struck down by the Supreme Court, which hears arguments on the case this week.

Section 5, known as the "preclearance" provision, mandates that nine states and parts of seven others seek approval from the Justice Department before changing voting laws or maps. A county from one of the states covered in the provision has now taken its objection to the Voting Rights Act all the way to the Supreme Court. The plaintiff, Shelby County, Ala., claims that "Section 5 exacts a heavy, unprecedented federalism cost" and it says that the 2006 legislative record, when the law was last extended, "shows scattered and limited interference with voting rights, a level plainly insufficient to sustain Section 5 preclearance."

Defenders of the law say that federal oversight is still needed on voting procedures. They point to the voter ID laws being considered and passed across the nation as the most recent example that certain Americans are still being disenfranchised. (Minorities, lower income earners, and young people, who often don't have the identification required by these laws, are being purposely burdened, some civil rights activists say.) Opponents of Section 5 say that the provision is out of date, no longer needed, and unfairly targets certain parts of the country.

Should the Supreme Court strike down the 'preclearance' provision of the Voting Rights Act? Here is the Debate Club's take:


The 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

#6
-13 Pts
Striking Down Section 5 Would Mark a Return to Constitutional Order

Yes – Striking Down Section 5 Would Mark a Return to Constitutional Order

Edward Blum Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute


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