Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act: How Politics and Symbolism Failed America


Carol M. Swain

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Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy

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In passing a watered-down piece of legislation (in July 2006), the Senate missed a critical opportunity to truly strengthen Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and protect voters against voting rights violations on a national scale. Had the Senate been less concerned with interest group pressure and political symbolism and more concerned with addressing voting violations, it would have been able to act as a deliberative body and create legislation more in line with the needs of the people. Instead, Congress failed to modify and strengthen the bill to ensure that its twenty-five-year extension protected all voters facing discrimination and inadequate representation. The Reauthorization bill does not serve national interests, the interests of minority voters, or the legacy of the civil rights leaders for whom the legislation is so aptly named. The proper response would .have been for the Senate to withstand the interest group pressure and delay action until Congress had sufficient time to draft legislation adequate for the task at hand-protecting the rights of all Americans while providing states and localities with incentives to comply with a national law.

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