The Voting Rights Act in Winter: The Death of a Superstatute

Guy-Uriel E. Charles

Duke University School of Law; Duke Law School

Luis E. Fuentes-Rohwer

Indiana University Maurer School of Law


Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 278

The Voting Rights Act, the most successful civil rights statute in American history, is dying. In the recent Shelby County decision, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled that the anti-discrimination model, long understood as the basis for the VRA as originally enacted, is no longer the best way to understand the voting rights questions of today. Voting rights law and policy are at a critical moment of transition. It is likely the case that the superstatute we once knew as the VRA is no more and never to return. If so, we need to figure out what, if anything, can, will, or should replace it. But before figuring out where to go from here, we need to first understand how we arrived at the moment of the VRA’s disintegration so as not to repeat the mistakes of the not too distant past. In this article we argue that the VRA is dying because the consensus over the existence and persistence of racial discrimination in voting has dissolved. We outline three paths for the future of voting rights policy: rebuilding a new consensus over the racial discrimination model; forging a new consensus over what we call an autonomy model; or reconceiving voting rights in universal terms.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Voting Rights Act, VRA, racial discrimination, Shelby County, NAMUDNO

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Date posted: January 12, 2014 ; Last revised: December 22, 2014

Suggested Citation

Charles, Guy-Uriel E. and Fuentes-Rohwer, Luis E., The Voting Rights Act in Winter: The Death of a Superstatute (2014). Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 278. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2377470 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2377470

Contact Information

Guy-Uriel Charles (Contact Author)
Duke Law School ( email )
Science Drive & Towerview Rd
Durham, NC 55455
United States

Duke University School of Law ( email )
Box 90360
Science Drive & Towerview Rd.
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Luis E. Fuentes-Rohwer
Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )
211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
812-855-5003 (Phone)
812-855-0555 (Fax)
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