Republicans and the Voting Rights Act
12 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2019
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
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