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5 Reasons Why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act Enhances Our Democracy

5 Reasons Why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act Enhances Our Democracy

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Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected our right to vote and is needed to continue building a diverse electorate that includes all Americans.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected our right to vote and is needed to continue building a diverse electorate that includes all Americans.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Feb 15, 2013
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1Center or American Progress | 5 Reasons Why Section 5 o the Voting Rights Act Enhances Our Democracy
5 Reasons Why Section 5 of the VotingRights Act Enhances Our Democracy
Sandhya Bathija February 19, 2013
On February 27, he U.S. Supreme Cour will hear argumens in he case
Shelby County v.Holder 
 , a challenge o he consiuionaliy o Secion 5 o he Voing Righs Ac o 1965.Tis landmark law oulawed discriminaory voing pracices by ending he disranchise-men o minoriy voers and prevening voe diluion hrough racial gerrymandering andoher echniques ha negae he minoriy voe when he whie majoriy voes as a block.
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Secion 5 urhers hese goals by requiring nine ull saes and pars o seven oher saes wih a hisory o racial discriminaion in voing o ask eiher he Deparmen o Jusiceor a hree-judge cour in Washingon, D.C., or approval beore making any changes o voing laws—a process known as preclearance.
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Congress deermined he jurisdicionsoriginally covered under Secion 5 by using a plan laid ou in he Voing Righs Ac andalso creaed a scheme or saes o “bail ou” o coverage i hey have complied wih he Voing Righs Ac or en years.
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(see Figure 1 on ollowing page)Here are ve reasons why Secion 5, by proecing he righ o voe, acually enhancesour democracy and is good or all Americans.
1. Section 5 blocks discriminatory voting practices
Secion 5 has blocked discriminaory sae laws ha would have disenranchised ordilued he minoriy voe. Wihou Secion 5:exas would have passed he srices voer ID law in he naion in 2011, placing unor-giving burdens on minoriy voers. Te law would have allowed concealed handgunlicenses o serve as a orm o valid idenicaion o voe, bu would have rejeced heuse o a college ID or a sae employee ID. Luckily, Secion 5 blocked he law and saved Arican American and Laino voers rom being disenranchised in he 2012 elecion.
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2Center or American Progress | 5 Reasons Why Section 5 o the Voting Rights Act Enhances Our Democracy
States covered as a whole by Section 5Some counties covered by Section 5Some townships covered by Section 5
Mississippi would have required people o regiser o voe wice: once or ederalelecions and once or sae and local elecions. Knowing ha i is more dicul orminoriies o overcome adminisraive barriers, his acic would have resuled in dilu-ing he minoriy voe in sae and local elecions. Te Deparmen o Jusice, usingSecion 5, blocked he law in 1997.
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Georgia would have coninued o use a voer vericaion program o check he cii-zenship saus o every person seeking o regiser o voe. Because Georgia ailed oreceive Secion 5 preclearance beore implemening he law, evidence was obainedha made i clear ha minoriy voers were being agged a higher raes, requir-ing ime-consuming addiional seps o be aken o prove heir ciizenship. TeDeparmen o Jusice denied preclearance or his law in 2009.
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 Arizona would have implemened a redisricing plan ha would have divided cerainelecion disrics so Lainos would no longer be he majoriy in hose disrics and would no longer be able o elec candidaes o heir choice o represen hem. TeDeparmen o Jusice denied preclearance or his law in 2002.
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Figure 1
Jurisdictions covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
Source: United States Department of Justice, “Section 5 Covered Jurisdictions,” available at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/sec_5/covered.php.
 
3Center or American Progress | 5 Reasons Why Section 5 o the Voting Rights Act Enhances Our Democracy
2. Section 5 safeguards local elections
Te eliminaion o Secion 5 may have he mos devasaing consequences in small ciiesand communiies where individuals are less likely o liigae discriminaory changes. Secion5 requires covered jurisdicions o submi requess or even minor changes a he local leveland proecs agains discriminaory pracices ha would oherwise go unnoiced.
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In 2011 he Pit Couny School Disric in Norh Carolina decided o reduce he num- ber o school board members rom 12 o 7 and shoren heir erms in oce. Secion 5 blocked he change rom going ino eec afer he Deparmen o Jusice deerminedha such a change would decrease represenaion o minoriy-preerred candidaes onhe school board.
9
 In Clinon, Mississippi, where 34 percen o he populaion is Arican American, heciy proposed o is six-member council a redisricing plan ha did no include asingle ward where Arican American voers had he power o elec candidaes o heirchoice. Racially polarized voing is sill a problem in Mississippi, and he redisricingplan ensured here was no longer a majoriy Arican American ward. Te Deparmeno Jusice ound reliable evidence ha he ciy had aced wih a racially discriminaory purpose and blocked he change rom going ino eec in 2011.
10
 
3. Section 5 prevents discrimination where race is still a barrier
Under he Voing Righs Ac, jurisdicions ha mus seek preclearance have a hisory o racial discriminaion in voing pracices, and here is sill evidence ha racial discrimina-ion is prevalen in Secion 5-covered jurisdicions. Mos o he saes ully covered underSecion 5 have he highes Arican American populaions in he counry, which shouldmean ha Arican Americans are srongly represened in he governmen. Bu ha isunorunaely no he case. Arican Americans are sill signicanly underrepresened in sae legislaures, inCongress, and in saewide oces such as governor and U.S. Senae posiions. Where Arican Americans do serve in public oce, hey are eleced in disrics ha are majoriy minoriy voers.
11
Racially polarized voing such as his indicaes ha race is sill a acorin how people voe. (see Figure 2 on ollowing page)Mississippi, which is nearly 40 percen Arican American—he highes populaiono Arican Americans in any sae in he counry 
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—has never eleced an Arican American governor. Tere is one Arican American currenly in Congress who repre-sens Jackson, Mississippi, which is more han 60 percen Arican American.
13
Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Georgia, and Souh Carolina lead he counry in beinghe mos underrepresened when i comes o Arican Americans in he sae legislaure.
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