This is part of the Reuters series on the future of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5, which the Supreme Court may strike down this year. You can read other pieces in the series here.
If the Supreme Court strikes down the Voting Rights Act, many will argue that we should abandon the civil rights model of elections and opt for a national law setting uniform election standards that would protect every voter.
I’m all for protecting every voter. But I would hate to lose what Section 5 provides – protections for racial minorities, in particular. The other protections against racial discrimination in voting – most notably, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act – are too costly and cumbersome to protect racial minorities from the practices that Section 5 now deters.
Section 2 works well for high-stakes redistricting battles, where the game is worth the candle. But for the myriad low-level discriminatory practices, no civil rights group has the resources to bring suit every time. We still need what Section 5 provides: a simple, quick and low-cost strategy for protecting minority voters.
The puzzle is how to create such a system without treading on whatever constitutional prohibitions the court sets up. If the court strikes down Section 5 for targeting some jurisdictions but not others, that problem can be solved by creating a nationwide scheme. After all, there’s plenty of discrimination outside the Deep South.