See Also Forum Discussion: Voting Rights Act Section 5


See Also Forum Discussion: Voting Rights Act Section 5


The Strange Ironic Career of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 1965-2007 by Prof. J. Morgan Kousser

In his Article, Professor Kousser takes the recent renewal of various provisions of the Voting Rights Act as an invitation to reflect on the history of Section Five of this politically transformative legislation. Although the Voting Rights Act currently enjoys overwhelming popular and legislative support, the rushed renewal of expiring provisions of the Act in 2005 and 2006 became a political minefield where partisan interests sowed the dragon’s teeth of the Act’s demise even as they extended provisions of the Act by twenty-five years. The much-heralded renewal merely restored Section Five of the Act to its “damaged pre-2000” state, and tactics were employed to all but invite the Supreme Court to declare the Act unconstitutional under the Court’s reinvigorated federalism concerns. By delving into the history of Section Five of this Act, Professor Kousser reveals that the present confusions reflected in the “renewal saga” were not anomalous outcomes of unique circumstances but instead accurately reflect a history that is filled with irony and unintended consequences. This historical study illuminates the fragility of the Voting Rights Act and the ease with which political apathy and antagonistic judicial pronouncements can frustrate progress towards racial equality in voting and democratic representation.


The History of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act from Another Perspective by Prof. Robert S. Bickerstaff

Professor Robert S. Bickerstaff offers a response to The Strange, Ironic Career of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that includes both a contrary analysis of Supreme Court decisions regarding Section 5 and also a detailed discussion of the precise effects of Section 5 on minority representation by elected officials. Professor Bickerstaff offers insights based on his thirty-two years of experience representing jurisdictions covered by the election-change review process of Section 5. Although much has been accomplished, real-world application of Section 5, particularly against the backdrop of partisan politics, has presented new challenges for achieving the goal of meaningful minority participation.

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