A trio of researchers have released a new study that found the recently gutted provision of the Voting Rights Act has played a major role in boosting African-American political representation on the municipal level around the country.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Rice University and Ohio University found that municipalities covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act -- which required certain jurisdictions to get federal approval (often referred to as preclearance) before changing their voting laws -- saw a more rapid increase in black political representation than municipalities that were not covered under the provision.
Section 5 was largely rendered moot by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder in June. In that case, the court found that the formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that determined which jurisdictions would be subject to Section 5 preclearance was unconstitutionally outdated. Since then, with a divided Congress unlikely to agree on revising Section 4, the Justice Department has announced lawsuits against Texas and North Carolina for passing new, strict voting laws. Texas was previously required to get federal approval before changing its voting laws, and some counties in North Carolina were as well.
The study, available online and to be published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Politics, suggests that there could be a decline in black representation at the municipal level because of the Supreme Court's ruling.
"It's going to be like Karl Marx said, history repeats itself twice. First time it's tragedy, second time it's farce, and that's what's going to happen. We're going to see fewer minority candidates at least at the city council level," Ohio University Professor Anirudh V. S. Ruhil, one of the study's authors, told TPM on Monday.
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