The Justice Department’s Voting Rights Act Needs to Change

The Justice Department’s Voting Rights Act Needs to Change

Op-Ed: A big reason the South goes red? Gerrymandering and voter suppression

In a perfect world, politicians would agree on something as simple as voter-approved district lines.

That’s why there is a long-standing, bipartisan commitment to a federal law known as the Voting Rights Act. The 1965 law made it harder for future segregation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement. In 2015, Congress and President Barack Obama signed it into law.

Now some observers say the law needs updating.

And a new report offers a reason to consider major changes in the way the Justice Department enforces the law.

This summer, a bipartisan group of 18 senators and 10 House members proposed legislation that would make it harder for the federal government to redraw voting districts in ways that discriminate against minority voters.

The senators’ legislation would prohibit the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior from using redrawn maps to keep blacks and Hispanics from voting, or for any other reason, when the changes violate the law.

There are strong grounds for thinking that the Justice Department does what it can to deny minority voters their most basic rights, as it did in the South in the 1950s and 1960s. And there’s a good chance that the agency will redraw election districts that favor Republicans and make it harder for Democrat voters to vote.

The idea that the Justice Department was responsible for racial voting and discrimination in Congress was a central premise of the 2014 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. Shelby County was a class action lawsuit brought by black voters in Shelby County, Ala. against the Justice Department and the Department of Justice over their failure to defend laws banning discriminatory voting practices. The lawsuit alleged that “disproportionate” voter-suppression laws in Alabama were enacted in a way designed to prevent blacks and minorities from voting.

The lawsuit claimed that the Department of Justice was biased against the plaintiffs because the government had refused to defend state laws passed after the 1964 Civil Rights Act that explicitly targeted minorities.

Shelby County argued that it needed to be a national class action so that the Justice

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