Voting Rights: Will Court Protections Deliver? Federal Courts Have Overturned Several State Voting Restrictions, but the Struggle Continues on the Ground

By Chapman, Allegra | The American Prospect, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Voting Rights: Will Court Protections Deliver? Federal Courts Have Overturned Several State Voting Restrictions, but the Struggle Continues on the Ground


Chapman, Allegra, The American Prospect


The electoral dirty work done by dozens of state legislatures in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2013 decision Shelby County v. Holder is the focus of determined legal challenges by voting-rights advocates, and decisions are coming down at a dizzying pace. Not every court involved has come down in favor of voters, but there's encouraging evidence that judges, including conservatives, recognize state laws purportedly passed to ensure "voting integrity" for what they really are: suppressive tactics.

STATES' EFFORTS TO SUPPRESS THE VOTE

Following the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County, state legislators representing nearly half the country rolled back effective reforms and erected new barriers to voting. It was a throwback to the era before the 1960s, when Jim Crow laws finally triggered passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Section 5 of the VRA, in effect for nearly 50 years, prevented much of the country--mostly Southern states and localities with a history of voting discrimination--from passing laws or rules geared to preventing citizens of color from casting ballots. It wasn't perfect, but it kept thousands of discriminatory practices from seeing the light of day. When the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 in Shelby County, states previously required to submit proposed voting changes to the federal government for preclearance--along with some never covered by the preclearance requirement--rushed to pass laws meant to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, and others, including students, seniors, and the disabled.

North Carolina was the worst offender. The day Shelby County came down, Republican legislators introduced omnibus legislation that would've been stopped by Section 5. It eliminated same-day registration, preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds, out-of-precinct voting, and reduced early voting. When the Tar Heel State adopted those voter-friendly measures in 2000, it had ranked 37th in turnout nationally; over a 12-year span, it improved to 11th. The reforms were particularly effective in the black community: 41.9 percent of African American voters turned out in 2000, 71.5 percent in 2008, and 68.5 percent in 2012. The cause and effect were clear. The 2013 bill also included a new hurdle--a requirement that each voter produce at the polls one of a select few types of photo ID. A federal appeals court later concluded that the favored IDs were chosen based on evidence that whites were likelier than blacks to possess them. Public-assistance ID cards--whose holders in North Carolina are typically poor and often black--were not on the acceptable list.

The North Carolina law may have been the most flagrant suppression effort, but it wasn't alone. Twenty-two states since 2010 passed legislation that either cut reforms that were improving participation or imposed a new photo-ID requirement to reduce it. Without the VRA's preclearance provision, state legislators, whether in jurisdictions once covered by Section 5 or not, believed they'd gotten a free pass to impose such measures.

Thankfully, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act remains alive and well; it prohibits any state from implementing voting practices in a "manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." With this in their arsenal, alongside the Constitution's protections, voting-rights litigators and the Department of Justice began filing complaints almost as quickly as state laws were passed.

COURTS RULE PHOTO-ID LAWS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Cases brought under Section 2 can be costly and time-consuming for voting-rights advocates to pursue; just as bad, they can be filed only after suppressive state laws have been put on the books--another reason Section 5's preclearance requirement was so valuable. But the past few months have been fruitful for litigators, as several courts have struck down or modified voting laws--mostly on photo ID--because they discriminatorily prevent some citizens from casting ballots. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Voting Rights: Will Court Protections Deliver? Federal Courts Have Overturned Several State Voting Restrictions, but the Struggle Continues on the Ground
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.