Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, July 26
 
Past and Prologue: The Voting Rights Act
Voting rights activists and experts met today in Washington, to discuss both the gains that have been accomplished through the Voting Rights Act and the future of the provisions that expire in August 2007. The Baltimore Sun has this report, and AP has this one on a press conference that civil rights leaders held today. The most important provisions that expire are Section 5, which requires that certain states and jurisdictions "preclear" changes in their election procedures, and Section 203, which requires bilingual assistance in jurisdictions with large numbers of non-English proficient voters.

Theodore Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is quoted as opposing any move to make the expiring provisions of the VRA permanent. He notes that this would be a "trojan horse," increasing the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down the reauthorized VRA as being beyond Congress' powers.

I agree with Shaw. The most difficult battle may turn out to be not the one to convince Congress that the VRA should be reauthorized, but rather to persuade the Court that the Act should be held constitutional. Critical to this effort will be hearings being conducted by the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act, which is holding hearings throughout the country in an effort to build an evidentiary record. The Commission is chaired by former Assistant U.S. Attorney for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University