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Any Gains Could Easily Be Lost


Publication Date: 
April 29, 2009
Blog Postings
Bibliography: Pamela S. Karlan, Any Gains Could Easily Be Lost, Room For Debate: A Running Commentary on the News, New York Times, April 29, 2009.



The Voting Rights Act of 1965, along with its extensions and amendments, is the crown jewel of American democracy. While the Act contains strong medicine — for example, the preclearance provision that is currently before the Supreme Court — that medicine remains necessary.

Section 5 of the act continues to play a major role in protecting the voting rights of minority citizens. In the past 25 years, Section 5 has been used to block more than 1,000 discriminatory changes that would have impaired the rights of literally millions of voters in covered jurisdictions.

These changes included restrictive registration practices, voting roll purges, moving polling places to make them less accessible to minority voters, as well as discriminatory annexations and adoptions of at-large election systems that made it more difficult for minority communities to elect representatives to local and state governing bodies.