Racial discrimination and prejudice remain prevalent in the United States, so the U.S. Supreme Court should fully uphold the Voting Rights Act, complete with rules requiring certain areas, mostly southern states, to get federal approval before changing voting laws. That’s the opinion of a consortium of political science and law scholars from the University of Washington and several other institutions who have filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in the Supreme Court case about voting rights out of Shelby County, Ala. The UW faculty are political science professors Matt Barreto and Luis Fraga. The Supreme Court is expected to review the case on Feb. 27. At issue is Section 5 of the act, which forbids any change in voting law in the selected areas unless the federal government agrees the change “does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” The rule pertains to the states Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, and certain jurisdictions in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Michigan and New Hampshire.
Shelby County, Ala., is suing the government saying that Section 5 is outdated, too restrictive and should be declared unconstitutional. Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation, which brought the challenge, told the Washington Post in November that the America that elected Barack Obama has progressed substantially since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed. He said, “Congress unwisely reauthorized a bill that is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp.”
After studying census records from 2000 and 2010, voting records from 2000 and 2008, public opinion data, lawsuits about the Voting Rights Act and all relevant state legislation in recent years, Fraga, Barreto and the other scholars strongly disagree.
They found “clear and statistically significant evidence” that discrimination is still widespread today, though often in different forms, and remains more widespread in Section 5-covered jurisdictions than elsewhere.