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Section 2 After Section 5: Voting Rights And The Race To The Bottom, Ellen D. Katz Apr 2018

Section 2 After Section 5: Voting Rights And The Race To The Bottom, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Five years ago, Shelby County v. Holder released nine states and fifty-five smaller jurisdictions from the preclearance obligation set forth in section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). This obligation mandated that places with a history of discrimination in voting obtain federal approval—known as preclearance—before changing any electoral rule or procedure. Within hours of the Shelby County decision, jurisdictions began moving to reenact measures section 5 had specifically blocked. Others pressed forward with new rules that the VRA would have barred prior to Shelby County.


Concealed Motives: Rethinking Fourteenth Amendment And Voting Rights Challenges To Felon Disenfranchisement, Lauren Latterell Powell Mar 2017

Concealed Motives: Rethinking Fourteenth Amendment And Voting Rights Challenges To Felon Disenfranchisement, Lauren Latterell Powell

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

Felon disenfranchisement provisions are justified by many Americans under the principle that voting is a privilege to be enjoyed only by upstanding citizens. The provisions are intimately tied, however, to the country’s legacy of racism and systemic disenfranchisement and are at odds with the values of American democracy. In virtually every state, felon disenfranchisement provisions affect the poor and communities of color on a grossly disproportionate scale. Yet to date, most challenges to the provisions under the Equal Protection Clause and Voting Rights Act have been unsuccessful, frustrating proponents of re-enfranchisement and the disenfranchised alike.

In light of those ...


One Significant Step: How Reforms To Prison Districts Begin To Address Political Inequality, Erika L. Wood Dec 2015

One Significant Step: How Reforms To Prison Districts Begin To Address Political Inequality, Erika L. Wood

University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform

Skyrocketing rates of incarceration over the last three decades have had profound and lasting effects on the political power and engagement of local communities throughout the United States. Aggressive enforcement practices and mandatory sentencing laws have an impact beyond the individuals who are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated. These policies have wide-ranging and enduring ripple effects throughout the communities that are most heavily impacted by criminal laws, predominantly urban and minority neighborhoods. Criminal justice policies broadly impact everything from voter turnout and engagement, to serving on juries, participating in popular protests, census data, and the way officials draw legislative districts. The ...


What The Marriage Equality Cases Tell Us About Voter Id, Ellen D. Katz Nov 2015

What The Marriage Equality Cases Tell Us About Voter Id, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Two years ago, United States u. Windsor tossed out the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"). Thereafter, proponents of marriage equality secured dozens of notable victories in the lower courts, a smattering of setbacks, and last June, the victory they sought in Obergefell v. Hodges. During this same period, opponents of electoral restrictions such as voter identification have seen far less sustained success. Decided the day before Windsor, Shelby County v. Holder scrapped a key provision of the Voting Rights Act ("VRA") while making clear that plaintiffs might still challenge disputed voting regulations under Section 2 of the VRA and the ...


Justice Ginsburg's Umbrella, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2015

Justice Ginsburg's Umbrella, Ellen D. Katz

Book Chapters

Near the end of her dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, Justice Ginsburg suggested a simple analogy to illustrate why the regional protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) were still necessary. She wrote that “[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”


Enforcing The Fifteenth Amendment, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2015

Enforcing The Fifteenth Amendment, Ellen D. Katz

Book Chapters

This chapter examines efforts to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment in the period from United States v. Reese through Shelby County v. Holder. Reese and Shelby County expose the most rigorous stance the Court has employed to review congressional efforts to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, while the years in-between show Congress and the Court working more in tandem, at times displaying remarkable indifference to blatant violations of the Fifteenth Amendment, and elsewhere working cooperatively to help vindicate the Amendment’s promise. Defying simple explanation, this vacillation between cooperation and resistance captures the complex and deeply consequential way concerns about federal power ...


Judicial Diversity After Shelby County V. Holder, William Roth Sep 2014

Judicial Diversity After Shelby County V. Holder, William Roth

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

In 2014, voters in ten of the fifteen states previously covered by the Voting Rights Act ("VRA") preclearance formula-including six of the nine states covered in their entirety-will go to the polls to elect or retain state supreme court justices. Yet despite the endemic underrepresentation of minorities on state benches and the judiciary's traditional role in fighting discrimination, scholars have seemingly paid little attention to how Shelby County v. Holder's suspension of the coverage formula in section 4(b) has left racial minorities vulnerable to retrogressive changes to judicial-election laws. The first election year following Shelby County thus ...


Dismissing Deterrence, Ellen D. Katz Apr 2014

Dismissing Deterrence, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

The proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act of 20144 (VRAA)[...]’s new criteria defining when jurisdictions become subject to preclearance are acutely responsive to the concerns articulated in Shelby County[ v. Holder]. The result is a preclearance regime that, if enacted, would operate in fewer places and demand less from those it regulates. This new regime, however, would not only be more targeted and less powerful, but, curiously, more vulnerable to challenge. In fact, the regime would be more vulnerable precisely because it is so responsive to Shelby County. Some background will help us see why.


Universalism And Civil Rights (With Notes On Voting Rights After Shelby), Samuel R. Bagenstos Jan 2014

Universalism And Civil Rights (With Notes On Voting Rights After Shelby), Samuel R. Bagenstos

Articles

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, voting rights activists proposed a variety of legislative responses. Some proposals sought to move beyond measures that targeted voting discrimination based on race or ethnicity. They instead sought to eliminate certain problematic practices that place too great a burden on voting generally. Responses like these are universalist, because rather than seeking to protect any particular group against discrimination, they formally provide uniform protections to everyone. As Bruce Ackerman shows, voting rights activists confronted a similar set of questions—and at least some of them opted for a universalist approach ...


What Was Wrong With The Record?, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

What Was Wrong With The Record?, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Shelby County v. Holder offers three reasons for why the record Congress amassed to support the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was legally insufficient to justify the statute's continued regional application: (1) the problems Congress documented in 2006 were not as severe as those that prompted it to craft the regime in 1965; (2) these problems did not lead Congress to alter the statute's pre-existing coverage formula; and (3) these problems did not exclusively involve voter registration and the casting of ballots.


Shelby County V. Holder: Why Section 2 Matters, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

Shelby County V. Holder: Why Section 2 Matters, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Editor’s Note: Professor Ellen D. Katz writes and teaches about election law, civil rights and remedies, and equal protection. She and the Voting Rights Initiative at Michigan Law filed a brief as amicus curiae in Shelby County v. Holder, on which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments February 27. Here, she examines why Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act bears consideration in the case, which involves a challenge to Section 5 of the act.


A Cure Worse Than The Disease?, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

A Cure Worse Than The Disease?, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

The pending challenge to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act insists the statute is no longer necessary. Should the Supreme Court agree, its ruling is likely to reflect the belief that section 5 is not only obsolete but that its requirements do more harm today than the condition it was crafted to address. In this Essay, Professor Ellen D. Katz examines why the Court might liken section 5 to a destructive treatment and why reliance on that analogy in the pending case threatens to leave the underlying condition unaddressed and Congress without the power to address it.


South Carolina's 'Evolutionary Process', Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

South Carolina's 'Evolutionary Process', Ellen D. Katz

Articles

When Congress first enacted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965, public officials in South Carolina led the charge to scrap the new statute. Their brief to the Supreme Court of the United States described the VRA as an “unjustified” and “arbitrary” affront to the “Equality of Statehood” principle, and a “usurp[ation]” of the State’s legislative and executive functions. Not surprisingly, the Warren Court was unpersuaded and opted instead to endorse broad congressional power to craft “inventive” remedies to address systematic racial discrimination and to “shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of evil to ...


On Overreaching, Or Why Rick Perry May Save The Voting Rights Act But Destroy Affirmative Action, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2012

On Overreaching, Or Why Rick Perry May Save The Voting Rights Act But Destroy Affirmative Action, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

The State of Texas is presently staking out two positions that are not typically pursued by a single litigant. On the one hand, Texas is seeking the invalidation of the Voting Rights Act, and, on the other, the State is now defending the validity of the expansive race-based affirmative action policy it uses at its flagship university. This Essay presses the claim that Texas has increased the chance it will lose in bothTexas v. Holder andFisher v. University of Texas because it has opted to stake out markedly extreme positions in each. I argue that Texas would be more likely ...


Democrats At Doj: Why Partisan Use Of The Voting Rights Act Might Not Be So Bad After All, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2012

Democrats At Doj: Why Partisan Use Of The Voting Rights Act Might Not Be So Bad After All, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

In notable ways, the ongoing dispute over redistricting in Texas offers a mirror image to one of the major redistricting battles of the last decade, only with Democratic and Republican roles reversed. In both Texas v. United States and Georgia v. Ashcroft, a state attorney general (AG) decided he would not ask the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to approve new redistricting plans enacted in his state. In both cases, the state AGs were well aware that the Voting Rights Act (VRA) required them to obtain federal approval, known as preclearance, before changing any aspect of their state's ...


Causation Or Correlation? The Impact Of Lulac V. Clements On Section 2 Lawsuits In The Fifth Circuit, Elizabeth M. Ryan Feb 2009

Causation Or Correlation? The Impact Of Lulac V. Clements On Section 2 Lawsuits In The Fifth Circuit, Elizabeth M. Ryan

Michigan Law Review

Under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, illegal vote dilution exists when an electoral standard, practice, or procedure results in a denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of race or color Plaintiffs demonstrate vote dilution by introducing evidence regarding a variety of objective factors, including whether voting in the jurisdiction in question is polarized along racial lines. In 1993, the Fifth Circuit adopted a new standard for section 2 plaintiffs trying to prove racially polarized voting. The Fifth Circuit held that demonstrating a mere correlation between race and vote was insufficient to establish racially polarized ...


Poll Workers, Election Administration, And The Problem Of Implicit Bias, Antony Page, Michael J. Pitts Jan 2009

Poll Workers, Election Administration, And The Problem Of Implicit Bias, Antony Page, Michael J. Pitts

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

Racial bias in election administration-more specifically, in the interaction between poll workers and voters at a polling place on election day-may be implicit, or unconscious. Indeed, the operation of a polling place may present an "optimal" setting for unconscious racial bias. Poll workers sometimes have legal discretion to decide whether or not a prospective voter gets to cast a ballot, and they operate in an environment where they may have to make quick decisions, based on little information, with few concrete incentives for accuracy, and with little opportunity to learn from their errors. Even where the letter of the law ...


Let's Not Jump To Conclusions: Approaching Felon Disenfranchisement Challenges Under The Voting Rights Act, Thomas G. Varnum Jan 2008

Let's Not Jump To Conclusions: Approaching Felon Disenfranchisement Challenges Under The Voting Rights Act, Thomas G. Varnum

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 invalidates voting qualifications that deny the right to vote on account of race or color. This Article confronts a split among the federal appellate courts concerning whether felons may rely on Section 2 when challenging felon disenfranchisement laws. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allows felon disenfranchisement challenges under Section 2; however, the Second and Eleventh Circuits foresee unconstitutional consequences and thus do not. After discussing the background of voting rights jurisprudence, history of felon disenfranchisement laws, and evolution of Section 2, this Article identifies the points of contention among the ...


Why Counting Votes Doesn't Add Up: A Response To Cox And Miles' Judging The Voting Rights Act, Ellen D. Katz, Anna Baldwin Jan 2008

Why Counting Votes Doesn't Add Up: A Response To Cox And Miles' Judging The Voting Rights Act, Ellen D. Katz, Anna Baldwin

Articles

In Judging the Voting Rights Act, Professors Adam B. Cox and Thomas J. Miles report that judges are more likely to find liability under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) when they are African American, appointed by a Democratic president, or sit on an appellate panel with a judge who is African American or a Democratic appointee. Cox and Miles posit that their findings “contrast” and “cast doubt” on much of the “conventional wisdom” about the Voting Rights Act, by which they mean the core findings we reported in Documenting Discrimination in Voting: Judicial Findings Under Section 2 ...


Not Like The South? Regional Variation And Political Participation Through The Lens Of Section 2, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2007

Not Like The South? Regional Variation And Political Participation Through The Lens Of Section 2, Ellen D. Katz

Book Chapters

Congress voted last summer to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Among the reauthorized provisions is the Section 5 preclearance process, which requires "covered" jurisdictions to obtain federal approval before implementing changes to their voting laws. It is widely assumed that the reauthorization of Section 5 will survive constitutional scrutiny only if the record Congress amassed to support the statute documents pervasive unconstitutional conduct in covered jurisdictions for which preclearance offers a remedy. This paper takes issue with that assumption, arguing that precedent requiring such a record for new congressional legislation enforcing civil rights ought not apply ...


The Politics Of Preclearance, Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, Guy-Uriel E. Charles Jan 2007

The Politics Of Preclearance, Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, Guy-Uriel E. Charles

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

This Essay examines recent charges of political motivation against the Department of Justice and its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. These accusations appear well-deserved, on the strength of the Department's recent handling of the Texas redistricting submission and Georgia's voting identification requirement. This Essay reaches two conclusions. First, it is clear that Congress wished to secure its understanding of the Act into the future through its preclearance requirement. Many critics of the voting rights bill worried about the degree of discretion that the legislation accorded the Attorney General. Supporters worried as well, for this degree of discretion ...


The Power Of Observation: The Role Of Federal Observers Under The Voting Rights Act, James Thomas Tucker Jan 2007

The Power Of Observation: The Role Of Federal Observers Under The Voting Rights Act, James Thomas Tucker

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is one of the most successful civil rights laws ever enacted. Following its passage, the promise of the Fifteenth Amendment has become a reality for millions of Americans. Black voters in the South register to vote without being subjected to discriminatory tests or devices. Minority citizens can cast ballots free of intimidation and violence. Barriers posed by English-only elections have been removed for many language minority voters. Voters are permitted to receive assistance from the person of their choice. Federal observers play an indispensable role in serving as the eyes and ears of ...


Congressional Power To Extend Preclearance: A Response To Professor Karlan, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2007

Congressional Power To Extend Preclearance: A Response To Professor Karlan, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Is the core provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional? Many people now think that the Act's preclearance requirement is invalid, but Professor Karlan is not among them. In part, that is because she is not convinced the problems that originally motivated Congress to impose preclearance have been fully remedied. Professor Karlan points out the many ways section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) shapes behavior in the jurisdictions subject to the statute--not just by blocking discriminatory electoral changes, but also by influencing less transparent conduct by various political actors operating in these regions. Do not be so ...


Mission Accomplished?, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2007

Mission Accomplished?, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

My study of voting rights violations nationwide suggests that voting problems are more prevalent in places “covered” by the Act than elsewhere. Professor Persily’s careful and measured defense of the renewed statute posits that this evidence is the best available to support reauthorization. The evidence matters because if, as critics charge, the regional provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) are no longer needed, minority voters should confront fewer obstacles to political participation in places where additional federal safeguards protect minority interests than in places where these safeguards do not operate. In fact, minority voters confront more.


Reviving The Right To Vote, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2007

Reviving The Right To Vote, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Losers in partisan districting battles have long challenged the resulting districting plans under seemingly unrelated legal doctrines. They have filed lawsuits alleging malapportionment, racial gerrymandering, and racial vote dilution, and they periodically prevail. Many election law scholars worry about these lawsuits, claiming that they needlessly "racialize" fundamentally political disputes, distort important legal doctrines designed for other purposes, and provide an inadequate remedy for a fundamentally distinct electoral problem. I am not convinced. This Article argues that the application of distinct doctrines to invalidate or diminish what are indisputably partisan gerrymanders is not necessarily problematic, and that the practice may well ...


Strict In Theory, Loopy In Fact, Nathaniel Persily Jan 2006

Strict In Theory, Loopy In Fact, Nathaniel Persily

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

Most Supreme Court-watchers find the decision in LULAC v. Perry notable for the ground it breaks concerning Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the ground it refuses to break on the topic of partisan gerrymandering. I tend to think the Court’s patchwork application of Section 2 to strike down a district on vote dilution grounds is not all that dramatic, nor is its resolution of the partisan gerrymandering claims all that surprising. The truly unprecedented development in the case for me was Justice Scalia’s vote to uphold what he considered a racial classification under the Equal ...


Cultural Compactness, Daniel R. Oritz Jan 2006

Cultural Compactness, Daniel R. Oritz

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

The Supreme Court’s opinions in LULAC v. Perry, the Texas redistricting case, confounded expectation. While many believed that the Court would develop the law governing partisan gerrymandering in one direction or another, it did not. As exactly before, such claims are justiciable but there is no law to govern them. In other words, the courthouse doors are open, but until some plaintiff advances a novel theory persuasive to five justices, no claims will succeed. On the other hand, few expected the Court to make any major changes to doctrine under the Voting Rights Act and Shaw v. Reno. But ...


This Way To The Egress And Other Reflections On Partisan Gerrymandering Claims In Light Of Lulac V. Perry, Bernard Grofman Jan 2006

This Way To The Egress And Other Reflections On Partisan Gerrymandering Claims In Light Of Lulac V. Perry, Bernard Grofman

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

After winning control of both houses of the legislature and the governorship, Texas Republicans eventually succeeded in redistricting Texas’s congressional seats in 2003, replacing a 2001 court-drawn plan. LULAC v. Perry reviewed a number of challenges to that second redistricting. The decision deals with a multiplicity of issues, including, most importantly, the standard for violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the nature of tests for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. While there are some clear holdings in the case, several of them reflect different combinations of Justices in the majority and, since there are six different opinions ...


Anthony Kennedy's Blind Quest, Scot Powe, Steve Bickerstaff Jan 2006

Anthony Kennedy's Blind Quest, Scot Powe, Steve Bickerstaff

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

League of United Latin American Citizens [LULAC] v. Perry embraced, in the context of partisan gerrymandering, Felix Frankfurter’s conclusion that the Supreme Court should not enter the political thicket of legislative apportionment. Two years earlier in Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Court split 4–1–4 on the justiciability of partisan gerrymandering. O’Conner and the three conservatives held it was nonjusticiable. Each of the four moderate liberals offered a test showing it was justiciable. Kennedy dissented from the conservatives while simultaneously rejecting each of the four tests offered. He announced he was waiting for a better test. When far ...


Lulac On Partisan Gerrymandering: Some Clarity, More Uncertainty, Richard Briffault Jan 2006

Lulac On Partisan Gerrymandering: Some Clarity, More Uncertainty, Richard Briffault

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

In League of United Latin American Citizens (“LULAC”) v. Perry, the Supreme Court, for the second time in two years, agonized over partisan gerrymandering. LULAC’s rejection of a Democratic challenge to the Texas legislature’s mid-decade pro-Republican congressional redistricting resembles the Court’s 2004 dismissal of a Democratic gerrymandering suit against Pennsylvania’s pro-Republican congressional redistricting plan in Vieth v. Jubelirer. As in Vieth, the Justices wrangled over justiciability, the substantive standard for assessing the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering claims, and the interplay of justiciability and constitutionality. As in Vieth, the Court was highly fragmented: Vieth produced five separate ...