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Redistricting and Discriminatory Purpose

86 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2010 Last revised: 18 Feb 2012

Michael J. Pitts

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Date Written: June 3, 2010


State and local governments covered by the preclearance provision in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will soon be submitting their redistricting plans to the federal government (most often the United States Attorney General) for approval. The Attorney General can deny preclearance to a redistricting plan by finding that the plan violates Section 5’s discriminatory purpose standard. Currently, no detailed framework has been developed for determining when a redistricting plan fails to satisfy the discriminatory purpose standard. This Article fills that void by proposing such a framework - one built from judicial opinions, statutory language, legislative history, executive branch enforcement, and “politics as markets” theory. In addition, this Article argues that development of a manageable framework for enforcing the discriminatory purpose standard in the redistricting context is necessary in order to satisfy a Supreme Court that in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009) expressed deep skepticism about the future constitutional viability of Section 5.

Keywords: Voting Rights Act, Section 5, Preclearance, Redistricting, Discriminatory Purpose, Attorney General, Voting Rights, Politics As Markets

Suggested Citation

Pitts, Michael J., Redistricting and Discriminatory Purpose (June 3, 2010). American University Law Review, Vol. 59, p. 1575, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Michael J. Pitts (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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