The Law of Affirmative Action: Twenty-Five Years of Supreme Court Decisions on Race and Remedies

By Girardeau A. Spann | Go to book overview

4
The Voting Rights Cases

The Supreme Court has decided a series of cases relating to the Voting Rights Act of 19651 that can also be viewed as affirmative action cases because of the affirmative obligations that the act imposes on covered jurisdictions to prevent the abridgment of minority voting strength. Although the Fifteenth Amendment prohibits states from abridging the right to vote on account of race,2 some states and political subdivisions have historically attempted to circumvent the Fifteenth Amendment guarantee through the use of racially correlated voting requirements and racially gerrymandered voting districts. When a racially discriminatory purpose and effect can be proved, intentional efforts to abridge minority voting rights violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.3 However, such discrimination also violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Congress enacted pursuant to its enumerated power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment.4 As amended in 1982, § 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits voting practices, including the adoption of voter reapportionment or districting plans, that have the effect of diluting the voting strength of covered racial minorities.5 In the 1986 decision of Thornburg v. Gingles6 the Supreme Court interpreted the effect or “results” test of the 1982 amendments. The Court held that three threshold requirements had to be proved in order to establish that minority voting strength was diluted by a particular districting plan. First, a minority plaintiff had to prove that his or her minority group was “sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority” in the alternate voting district contended for. Second, the minority group had to be “politically cohesive.” Third, it had to be the case that “the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it … usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate.”7 In addition, § 5 of the act provides that states or political subdivisions with a history or likely presence of voting discrimination cannot change their voting practices or requirements without prior approval by the attorney general of United States or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.8 Because

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The Law of Affirmative Action: Twenty-Five Years of Supreme Court Decisions on Race and Remedies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1: Affirmative Action 1
  • 2: The Early Cases 10
  • 3: The Majority Opinions 44
  • 4: The Voting Rights Cases 85
  • 5: The Law of Affirmative Action 156
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 295
  • Legal Authorities 299
  • Index 305
  • About the Author 317
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