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U.S. Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act

The United States Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Justice Department must approve districting changes, regardless of whether they are discriminatory, as long as the change does not leave minority voters more disadvantaged than before.

The 5-4 ruling effectively dismantles Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires “covered jurisdictions,” those state and local governments with histories of low minority electoral participation, to seek the clearance of either the Justice Department or the federal district court before enacting any voting change.

As a result of this ruling, states can legally choose to draw district lines that effectively maintain the status quo of political candidates as long as there is an absence of “retrogression.” Justice David H. Souter stated in the opinion for the four dissenters that the majority had adopted an “exceedingly odd” interpretation that would force the government to approve “unconstitutional voting schemes patently intended to perpetuate discrimination.”

Sources:

Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times - January 25, 2000 and The Feminist Majority Foundation

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