Republicans and the Voting Rights Act

12 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2019

See all articles by Michael Morley

Michael Morley

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: April 17, 2019


This invited essay reviews Jesse H. Rhodes's book Ballot Blocked: The Political Erosion of the Voting Rights Act. The book's main thesis is that Republican officials from all branches of government "adopted a sophisticated long-term strategy" of publicly supporting the Voting Rights Act throughout the half-century following its enactment while surreptitiously attempting to weaken and undermine it. This Essay critiques the book's pervasive tendency to present most Republicans from across all branches of government throughout a period of over 50 years as acting in an almost monolithic fashion to achieve their supposedly shared goal of secretly undermining the Act.

Rather than attempting to undermine the Voting Rights Act, Republican administrations simply interpreted and enforced it somewhat differently than Democratic administrations – a common occurrence with many statutes. Ironically, Republican interpretations sometimes led to broader enforcement of the Act. Moreover, many of the considerations upon which Rhodes relies as evidence of Republicans' supposed strategy to secretly erode the Act apply equally to Democratic administrations. In short, there is ample reason to believe both Democratic and Republican administrations faithfully enforced the Voting Rights Act, albeit sometimes according to differing interpretations and priorities.

Keywords: Voting Rights Act, election law, voting, due process, equal protection, discrimination, disparate impact, pre-clearance, section 2, section 5, Fourteenth Amendment, Fifteenth Amendment, civil rights

Suggested Citation

Morley, Michael, Republicans and the Voting Rights Act (April 17, 2019). Tulsa Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 281, 2019, FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 908, Available at SSRN:

Michael Morley (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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