The Voting Rights Act in Winter: The Death of a Superstatute
51 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2014 Last revised: 22 Dec 2014
Date Written: 2014
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the U.S. Supreme Court signaled that the anti-discrimination model, long understood as the basis for the VRA as originally enacted, is no longer the best way to understand the voting rights questions of today.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.
Keywords: Voting Rights Act, VRA, racial discrimination, Shelby County, NAMUDNO
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