Voting Blogs: What Did VRA Preclearance Actually Do?: The Gap Between Perception and Reality | Election Law Blog

A widespread perception exists that, in the years before the Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Section 5 preclearance regime was a powerful tool in protecting access to the ballot box for minority voters.  Indeed, Section 5 is widely thought to have been overwhelmingly about protecting access in the covered areas:  that is part of it symbolic meaning.  On this view, Section 5 was a bulwark against laws like the one just signed by North Carolina’s governor – which makes voting more difficult for eligible voters by cutting the early voting period, eliminating same-day registration, and other measures. But the reality is that Section 5 was rarely used in this way, at least in its last three decades.  Section 5 did not, primarily, function to protect access to the ballot box.  Instead, the overwhelming uses of Section 5 were to ensure more majority-majority election districts or to stop at-large election systems and other practices believed to weaken minority voting strength.  Some of these uses, especially the compelled creation of majority-minority election districts, are more controversial (even among conventional “liberals”) than are robust protections for access to the ballot box.  Yet in practice, Section 5 was used primarily for redistricting and other matters of vote dilution rather than protecting the right of eligible citizens to cast a vote.

Full Article: What Did VRA Preclearance Actually Do?: The Gap Between Perception and Reality | Election Law Blog.

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