Shelby vs. Holder and the Geography of Voter Suppression

Authors: Fiona Davidson*, University Of Arkansas
Topics: Political Geography, United States
Keywords: electoral geography, US elections, voter suppression
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download

In 2013 the Supreme Court found in favor of Shelby County, GA suing to declare unconstitutional Section 5, or the practice of ‘pre-clearance’ of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A measure that mandated Department of Justice oversight when localities in states with a historic record of voter suppression looked to change voting laws. Arguing that Section 5 was unconstitutional because it applied only to a select group of states, the plaintiffs were successful, not in getting Section 5 itself overturned, but in getting rid of the concept of the coverage formula (Section 4b) of the Act which determined the states that were required to undergo preclearance. The removal of the coverage formula made the implementation of pre-clearance impractical and since 2013 the DoJ has stopped monitoring voting changes implemented by state governments.

This research examines the rise of voter suppression measures in the US both before and after the Shelby vs Holder decision, using graphic and statistical measures to suggest that the breadth, severity and spatiality of voter suppression increased dramatically after 2013. The coverage formula was created specifically to target states that had a history of voter suppression, the removal of DoJ supervision from these states, and the resulting expansion of voter suppression measures, provides a clear indication of why Section 4(b) and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are so critical to the preservation of electoral integrity in the US.

Keywords: electoral geography; US elections; voter suppression

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