that reduce the political power of minority groups as compared to the power they held before the proposed change.
See Beer v. United States
, 425 U.S. 130 (1976) [p. XXX]. Preclearance doesnot demand that states improve the lot of minorities, or even that minorities be given the power to which they are entitled by § 2 of the VRA, but simply that the proposed change not make thesituation worse. If, however, the
of a proposed change (as distinguished from its effect)is to give minorities less political power than that to which they are entitled, preclearance should be denied.
42 U.S.C. § 1973c(c).
Much as critics have complained that § 5 makes states subservient to the nationalgovernment, the preclearance procedure applies to only a subset of laws passed or administered by covered jurisdictions. Specifically, preclearance is required whenever a covered jurisdiction“shall enact or seek to administer any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.” 42 U.S.C. § 1973c. There is little controversy as tothe meaning of “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting,” but the remaining statutorylanguage has been the subject of important litigation.Disputes concerning the meaning of “standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting”confront two competing concerns. On the one hand, all manner of state and local laws candiminish the significance of the right to vote without directly stopping any person from casting a ballot. The Court has reasoned that the purposes of the Voting Rights Act would be undermined by an interpretation that permitted states to avoid its strictures through clever devices thatformally did not involve voting. On the other hand, however, Congress did not intend to require
state and local law to be precleared. Requiring changes “with respect to voting,” in other words, implied a desire to exempt some category of changes in laws not respecting voting.Exactly which laws comprise that category, however, has long been a matter of dispute, as thefollowing cases attest.
ALLEN v. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS
Supreme Court of the United States393 U.S. 544, 89 S. Ct. 817, 22 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1969)
delivered the opinion of the Court [in which M
, and M
joined, and in which M
joined in relevant part]. * * *Under § 5 [of the Voting Rights Act of 1965], if a State covered by the Act passes any“voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect tovoting different from that in force or effect on November 1, 1964,” no person can be deprived of his right to vote “for failure to comply with” the new enactment “unless and until” the Stateseeks and receives a declaratory judgment in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that the new enactment “does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.”However, § 5 does not necessitate that a covered State obtain a declaratory judgment action before it can enforce any change in its election laws. It provides that a State may enforce a newenactment if the State submits the new provision to the Attorney General of the United Statesand, within 60 days of the submission, the Attorney General does not formally object to the newstatute or regulation. The Attorney General does not act as a court in approving or disapproving2