By Spencer Overton
Five Supreme Court Justices just rolled back the most effective civil rights provision in our nation’s history. What should we do now?
One option is to declare “mission accomplished” and forget about race in politics.
That, however, will not work. Although we have made amazing progress in the past fifty years, too many state and local politicians still maintain power by manipulating election rules.
Nueces County, Texas, provides one example. After the rapidly growing Latino community surpassed 56 percent of its population, the county gerrymandered local election districts to diminish the influence of Latino voters. The Voting Rights Act blocked Nueces County’s gerrymandering in 2012, but now that the Court has rolled back the Act, state and local politicians will have more opportunities to manipulate voting rules.
Voting rights protections are still needed, and it is feasible to design up-to-date and adequate protections. While today’s Supreme Court decision is a setback, Congress has the power to do the right thing and update the Voting Rights Act.
Republicans and Democrats should agree to modernize the Voting Rights Act based on two principles: (1) updating the Act’s preclearance and litigation provisions; and (2) requiring disclosure.
Update Preclearance & Litigation
The preclearance process of the Voting Rights Act applied to all or part of 15 states, and required those areas to submit proposed changes in voting rules to federal officials for approval. The Supreme Court held that the coverage formula requiring preclearance by some states but not others was outdated because it was based on election data from the 1964, 1968, and 1972 elections.