What Is Even Left of the Voting Rights Act?
Multiple states have moved since 2020 to impose more harsh voting restrictions.
By Zachary B. Wolf
Senior Writer, CNN Politics
The first gutting of the Voting Rights Act came in 2013, when the court invalidated the system of preclearance, which forced states and jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination and extremely low voter turnout to clear new voting restrictions with either the federal government or a federal court in Washington, DC.
But in the case Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the formula for determining which states and locations must preclear voting law changes was based on data from 1964, 1968 and 1972.
“Our country has changed,” he wrote, arguing that Congress should come up with a new formula. It never did and efforts to update the law with a new Voting Rights Act named for the late Rep. John Lewis are unable to break a GOP filibuster.
The second gutting of the Voting Rights Act came in 2021. In the case Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court upheld provisions of an Arizona law that would throw out ballots cast at the wrong precinct and limited who could collect absentee ballots. The decision opened the floodgates to new restrictions in GOP-controlled states and called into question protections in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act against vote denial, or making it hard for people to vote.
Now the court is looking at upending the Section 2 protection against vote dilution, or making votes meaningless, with a case out of Alabama concerning the state’s congressional map. More than a quarter of Alabamians are Black, but the map created only a single majority-Black congressional district out of the state’s seven districts. A federal court ruled the map harmed minority voters, but in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court allowed the map to remain in place while it considers the case. Alabama’s Republican secretary of state has argued that considering race to draw maps that give power to Black voters is itself discriminatory. A result favorable to Alabama could let the state draw congressional lines in such a way that no minority voters would ever have a reasonable chance of achieving proportionate influence.