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Michael Lind: A No-Lose Fix for the Voting Rights Act

Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation.

By striking down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and thereby gutting the act’s Section 5, the Supreme Court has presented defenders of voting rights in America with a challenge—and a historic opportunity. The challenge is the need to avert a new wave of state and local laws restricting voting rights in the aftermath of the Court’s decision. The opportunity is the chance that Congress now has to universalize Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, to make it apply to all 50 states.

Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 imposed a special coverage formula on jurisdictions with particularly bad histories of racial discrimination in voting, including nine states—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia—and dozens of county and municipal governments, including the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Section 5 authorized the Justice Department to require “pre-clearance” of proposed changes in electoral laws in these jurisdictions. The pre-clearance requirement has been used in recent years to thwart attempts by the ethnocentric non-Hispanic White Right to engage in voter ID laws or redistricting plans which were evidently motivated by the desire to indirectly eliminate or dilute the votes of nonwhite citizens or poor citizens.

By striking down Section 4, the coverage formula, the Court gutted Section 5, the authorization of pre-clearance. Eliminating pre-clearance gives states whose legislatures are controlled by the bitter, desperate, demographically-declining White Right a green light to try to enact voter restriction policies which are racially-discriminatory in their effect and undoubtedly in their intent.

Is there anything that progressives, centrists and enlightened conservatives can do, to avert a new wave of voter restrictions at the state level which, while racially neutral in appearance, have the intent and effect of reducing black and Latino electoral power, to the benefit of the ethnocentric White Right?...

Read entire article at Salon