Why the Preclearance and Bailout Provisions of the Voting Rights Act Are Still a Constitutionally Proportional Remedy


Of the extensive civil rights laws promulgated by Congress since the mid 1960s, the Voting Rights Act (“VRA” or “the Act”) would appear to be among the most constitutionally secure. The VRA was enacted in 1965 as a means of enabling direct federal intervention to enable African Americans to register and vote. Its passage was in part a response to the recalcitrance of Southern jurisdictions in the face of ineffective case-by-case litigation by the Department of Justice. Section 5, the controversial centerpiece of the Act, mandates that certain electoral jurisdictions submit for approval any proposed procedural changes “with respect to voting.” Section 5 has received constitutional affirmation from the Supreme Court as recently as 1999. Even amid recent Court decisions reining in congressional power to enforce the Fourteenth -and by extension, the Fifteenth- Amendment, the VRA seemingly has emerged as exemplary civil rights legislation.

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