Voting Rights Disclosure

Spencer Overton

George Washington University - Law School

November 25, 2013

127 Harvard Law Review Forum 19 (2013)
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-141
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2013-141

In "Beyond the Discrimination Model On Voting," 127 Harvard Law Review 95 (2013), Professor Samuel Issacharoff proposes that Congress turn away from what he considers the outdated and “limited race-driven use” of the Fifteenth Amendment and instead protect all types of voters from partisan manipulation using a “non-civil rights” Elections Clause approach. Specifically, Issacharoff proposes that jurisdictions disclose changes to voting rules for federal elections. This Essay argues that Issacharoff’s approach is incomplete. Contemporary discrimination exists and warrants attention — particularly where fast-growing minority populations threaten the status quo. This discrimination differs from simple partisan manipulation, as the discrimination reduces incentives for cross-racial coalitions and fuels racial division. Further, Issacharoff’s choice to move “beyond” race and abandon the Fifteenth Amendment limits his proposal to federal elections. As a result, his proposal would overlook significant problems — at least 86.4% of all election changes that resulted in VRA section 5 objections since 2000 would not have been disclosed under Issacharoff’s proposal. Unlike the high-profile restrictions he targets (e.g., photo ID triggered by “Republican control of the state legislature”), local voting changes missed by Issacharoff’s proposal are often decisive factors in non-partisan elections, attract little national media attention, and go unchallenged by local voters who lack resources to bring lawsuits. Congress should deter voting discrimination by using the Fifteenth Amendment and the Elections Clause to require disclosure of election changes for federal, state, and local offices, as well as to require more detailed reporting than Issacharoff’s proposal. Finally, disclosure alone is not enough. Congress should also strengthen the VRA Section 3(c) bail-in procedure and streamline voting rights litigation. Selecting between the Fifteenth Amendment and the Elections Clause is a false choice, as we can work both to prevent voting discrimination and to improve access to voting for all Americans.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: Voting Rights Act, preclearance, Section 5, Fifteenth Amendment, Shelby County, Elections Clause, disclosure, discrimination, post-racial, aracial, race-neutral

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Date posted: December 11, 2013 ; Last revised: January 9, 2014

Suggested Citation

Overton, Spencer, Voting Rights Disclosure (November 25, 2013). 127 Harvard Law Review Forum 19 (2013) ; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-141; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2013-141. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2365620

Contact Information

Spencer Overton (Contact Author)
George Washington University - Law School ( email )
2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-9794 (Phone)
202-994-9817 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.gwu.edu/facweb/soverton/
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