Examples of the Voting Rights Act Blocking Discriminatory Voting Laws in Virginia

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Virginia Democratic staffer emailed me the other day with some interesting information I thought worth passing on.  What prompted the email was the Supreme Court striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, as well as this quote in the Richmond Times Dispatch by the Executive Director of the Virginia ACLU:
Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, called the court’s decision a potential “death blow” to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
"By doing so, the Court has blocked the single most effective instrument of fairness in place since 1965,” she said.GastaƱaga said that the preclearance process blocked 15 discriminatory voting laws in Virginia between 1982 and 2006, including a $45 fee that the Republican Party proposed to impose on convention delegates in 1994 – a practice overturned as a poll tax.
What were those 15 discriminatory voting laws blocked by "preclearance?" A March 2006 report report lists instances where Section 5 of the VRA prevented voter disenfranchisement in Virginia. Note that much of the intervention stemmed from Republican plans to pack black voters into districts, much in the same way that they tried during the last session of the Virginia General Assembly.Also note that most of Virginia’s Section 5 objections since 1982 have involved redistricting. Officials have consistently attempted to limit African-American voters’ political influence by “packing” them into a few districts or dispersing them among several majority-white districts to limit their ability to elect candidates of choice. This form of “vote dilution” is designed to cabin minority voting power, and is indeed “old poison in new bottles.” Moreover, changes made during redistricting usually have an impact for a decade or even beyond. Section 5’s role in ensuring that the political opportunities of African Americans are not further limited during redistricting has likely protected the rights of innumerable African-American voters.