The Dignity of the South
123 Yale Law Journal Online 175 (2013)
22 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013 Last revised: 15 Jul 2013
Date Written: June 8, 2013
The plaintiffs in Shelby County v. Holder argue that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should be struck down because it offends the “equal dignity" of the covered states — an argument the Court appeared to credit in its last brush with section 5 in NAMUDNO. This Essay, written in advance of the decision in Shelby County, critically examines this equal dignity of the states argument and situates it in a larger context. Americans have been fighting for 150 years, since the Civil War and Reconstruction, about the structural implications of the events of 1861-70 for the sovereignty, dignity, and equality of the states — especially the Southern states. The implications of adopting the “equal dignity” of the covered states as a constraint on Congress’s Reconstruction Power are deeply problematic and profound.
Keywords: Voting Rights Act, Election Law, Dignity, State Dignity, Equal Dignity, Federalism, Reconstruction, Reconstruction Amendments, Civil War
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