On July 1st, thought leaders in the world of voting rights gathered together at a symposium titled “Voting Rights after Shelby County v. Holder.” Participants included both scholars and practitioners of voting rights law and a thought-provoking discussion ensued exploring the limits of the Shelby decision, the future of the Voting Rights Act and the immediate effects of the decision on voting rights doctrine and practice.
The question of the continuing vitality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has more than two sides; there are opinions at many different angles, thus the debate is especially nuanced and complex. The Brookings symposium confirmed this fact.
Columbia Law Professor and recognized redistricting expert Nathaniel Persily, moderated the event and has released a paper summarizing the important takeaways from the discussion along with Brookings Senior Fellow Thomas Mann.
While the paper’s main focus is the road ahead for section 5 and the possibilities for reform, the piece also gives a smart, concise analysis of the Shelby decision; from both the majority and dissent. One key takeaway from the Brookings discussion is that the future will depend on which one of two strategies will be pursued for reform. As Persily and Mann puts it:
Those who wish to enact a new Voting Rights Act tend to group into two camps: those
who want to get as close as possible to the now-defunct Section 4 and 5 regime and those
who want to use the policy window opened by Shelby County to expand what the VRA is about.
Watch video of the July 1st symposium.