In Defense of Shelby County's Principle of Equal State Sovereignty
54 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2015 Last revised: 3 Sep 2017
Date Written: July 8, 2015
In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a key aspect of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 based on “the principle that all States enjoy equal sovereignty.” Legal scholars have exhaustively attacked Shelby County’s equal sovereignty principle with a surprising degree of unanimity and contempt. These critics argue that the principle is theoretically unworkable, finds no support in the Supreme Court’s precedent, is inconsistent with constitutional history, undermines individual rights, and is tainted by its association with slavery and Jim Crow. This Article responds to such criticism by arguing that the principle of equal sovereignty is a coherent and defensible legal doctrine that is deeply rooted in our nation’s constitutional history.
Keywords: Shelby County; equal sovereignty; state sovereignty; Voting Rights Act
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