|Voting rights rally in New York, 2011|
The US Supreme Court could today set in motion the process of striking down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This rules that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination need to get permission from the federal government before enacting changes to voting procedures. It was a historic victory for the civil rights movement.
However, Shelby County, Alabama claim that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority when it reauthorised Section 5, which was only ever supposed to be temporary.
It also claims that such restrictions are not necessary because black voter registration and turnout rates now are high and that black elected officials are commonplace.
However, if the Act is overturned, expect the politics of election law to become more, not less furious.
Defenders of Section 5 cite continued forms of discrimination. Section 5 was used to prevent changes to early voting and introduce identification requirements in these key states. As Rick Hasan notes, if Section 5 goes, ‘expect to see more brazen partisan gerrymanders, cutbacks in early voting and imposition of tougher voting and registration rules in the formerly covered jurisdictions.’
|The US Supreme Court to hear Shelby v Holder|
This will inevitably lead to a backlash from the Obama administration, the Democratic party and the civil rights movement. There were continued problems in the 2012 US Presidential election, which the president promised to fix. He recently announced the formation of the ‘bipartisan’ Bauer-Ginsberg commission in his State of the Union speech to improve voting procedures.
Expect the ever-unresolved politics of election administration in the US to rumble on….