Voting Rights Act and How It Eliminated Legal Barriers that Prevented African Americans from Voting Paper

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Describe at least two secondary sources that you could use to research your historical event. Your sources must be relevant to your event and must be of an appropriate academic nature. In your description, consider questions such as: What are the similarities and differences in the content of your sources? What makes them appropriate and relevant for investigating your event? What was your thought process when you were searching for sources? How did you make choices?

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1. Describe the historical event that you selected. Why is this event significant? 2. Describe at least two secondary sources that you could use to research your historical event. Your sources must be relevant to your event and must be of an appropriate academic nature. In your description, consider questions such as: What are the similarities and differences in the content of your sources? What makes them appropriate and relevant for investigating your event? What was your thought process when you were searching for sources? How did you make choices? 3. Describe at least two primary sources that you could use to research your historical event. Your sources must be relevant to your event and must be of an appropriate academic nature. In your description, consider questions such as: How do these sources relate to your secondary sources? What do they add to your understanding of the event? What makes them appropriate and relevant for investigating your event? 4. Based on your review of primary and secondary sources, develop a research question related to the historical event you selected. In other words, what would you like to know more about? 5. Create a thesis statement based on your research question. This will help you address these two critical elements later on: V. Identify an audience that would be interested in your historical event and research question. For example, who would benefit most from hearing your message? VI. Describe how and why you can tailor your message to your audience, providing specific examples. For example, will your audience understand historical terminology and principles associated with your event, or will you need to explain these? How will you communicate effectively with your audience? Race, Representation, and the Voting Rights Act Sophie Schuit Boston University Jon C. Rogowski Harvard University Abstract: Despite wide scholarly interest in the Voting Rights Act, surprisingly little is known about how its specific provisions affected Black political representation. In this article, we draw on theories of electoral accountability to evaluate the effect of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the preclearance provision, on the representation of Black interests in the 86th to 105th congresses. We find that members of Congress who represented jurisdictions subject to the preclearance requirement were substantially more supportive of civil rights–related legislation than legislators who did not represent covered jurisdictions. Moreover, we report that the effects were stronger when Black voters composed larger portions of the electorate and in more competitive districts. This result is robust to a wide range of model specifications and empirical strategies, and it persists over the entire time period under study. Our findings have especially important implications given the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Replication Materials: The data, code, and any additional materials required to replicate all analyses in this arti- cle are available on the American Journal of Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at: O ver fifty years ago, the 89th Congress passed the Voting Rights act (VRA) of 1965. The Act prohibited jurisdictions from implementing barriers to voting and provided for greater enforcement of the right to vote guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Upon reflection, President Johnson remarked that the VRA was his greatest achievement1 from an era that produced “one of the most glittering records of legislative accomplishment in history.”2 The VRA earns a place on David Mayhew’s list of “significant” legislation and has also been described as “the most powerful weapon in the civil rights arsenal” (Gerken 2006, 709), which “had fundamental effects on American politics and society” (Rodriguez and Weingast 2003, 1428). As Cox and Miles (2008, 1) elaborate, “the Voting Rights Act has dramatically reshaped the political landscape of the United States . . . it has helped substantially expand political opportunities for minority voters and has contributed to the radical realignment of Southern politics.” And in even more lucid terms, Issacharoff (2013, 95) writes that the VRA “was pivotal in bringing black Americans to the broad currents of political life—a transformation that shook the foundations of Jim Crow, triggered the realignment of partisan politics, and set the foundations for the election of an African American president.” A voluminous empirical literature attributes the VRA with increased rates of Black voter turnout (Filer, Kenney, and Morton 1991); successful Black candidates elected to municipal office (Sass and Mehay 1995), state legislatures (Grofman and Handley 1991), and Congress (Handley, Grofman, and Arden 1998); and public expenditures in Black communities (Cascio and Washington 2014; Husted and Kenny 1997; Keech 1968). In this article, we study what Guinier (1991) identified as the third component of Black electoral success: the election of public officials who are responsive to Black Sophie Schuit is Student, School of Law, 765 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 ( C. Rogowski is Assistant Professor, Department of Government, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02143 ( This is one of a series of articles by the authors, and the ordering of the authors’ names reflects the principle of rotation. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2014 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies. We thank the Department of Political Science and the Office of Undergraduate Research at Washington University in St. Louis for generous research support. Chris Elmendorf, Jim Gibson, Kevin Quinn, Andrew Reeves, Bertrell Ross, and Doug Spencer provided especially generous feedback. We also thank the Editor and four anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and suggestions. 1 The American Presidency Project, “The President’s News Conference at the National Press Club,” January 17, 1969; available at 2 Editorial, New York Times, September 5, 1965. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 61, No. 3, July 2017, Pp. 513–526  C 2016, Midwest Political Science Association DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12284 513 514 interests. In contrast with other scholarship that carefully examines the ways in which the VRA expanded the opportunities for electing Black representatives (e.g., Black 1978; Fairdosi and Rogowski 2015; Gay 2007; Grose 2005, 2011; Lublin et al. 2009; Swain 1993; Tate 2003; Whitby 1985, 2000; Whitby and Gilliam 1991), we examine the role of the VRA’s electoral provisions in advancing the substantive representation of Black interests in Congress. In doing so, we extend scholarship on how the districting principles in the VRA increased the representation of Blacks in Congress and state legislatures (e.g., Grofman and Handley 1991; Handley, Grofman, and Arden 1998; Overby and Cosgrove 1996). Identifying how specific VRA provisions affected patterns of representation is important because political mobilization as a result of the VRA is attributed with increased political influence for Black constituencies (e.g., Combs, Hibbing, and Welch 1984), and thousands of pages of scholarship discuss the legal standards used to evaluate the VRA’s provisions (e.g., Hancock and Tredway 1985; Issacharoff 1992; JonesCorrea 2005; Karlan 1991; Persily 2007; Pildes and Niemi 1993; Polsby and Popper 1993). Moreover, the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder raises new questions about whether specific provisions of the VRA are still necessary to ensure political representation of Black interests. Focusing on the provisions contained in Section 5, which required jurisdictions that met certain criteria to obtain federal approval before changing their election law, we find that legislators from districts subject to federal preclearance compiled substantially more pro–civil rights voting records compared to members from otherwise similar districts. Moreover, the magnitude of the effect increases with the Black percentage of the district population and with electoral competitiveness. These results are robust to a wide range of model specifications and empirical strategies. Consistent with our hypothesized mechanism, we also report suggestive evidence that the preclearance provision was associated with higher levels of electoral competition. Our findings have important implications for voting rights jurisprudence, the effects of election law on political representation, and the advancement of civil rights policies. Black Political Participation and the Voting Rights Act SOPHIE SCHUIT AND JON C. ROGOWSKI century (Garrow 1978). In early 1965, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference pressed forward with its plan to force Congress to guarantee voting protections by organizing a demonstration in Selma, Alabama. Soon thereafter, President Johnson presented a voting rights bill to Congress in a national address on March 15, and he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law on August 6. The key provisions of the VRA are Sections 2, 4, and 5. Section 2(a) prohibits the use of voting qualifications that deny the right to vote on account of race or color, while Section 2(b) requires that districting plans do not “dilute” the votes cast by minority voters. Sections 4 and 5 include provisions that pertain to specific jurisdictions. Section 4(b) specifies a coverage formula that identifies these jurisdictions. As originally written, this formula applied to jurisdictions that used a test or device in the November 1964 presidential election to limit the opportunity to register or vote, and in which less than half of the jurisdiction’s eligible citizens were registered or voted in the November 1964 election. Section 5 subjects these jurisdictions to the “preclearance” requirement, in which jurisdictions identified under Section 4(b) must receive federal approval before making changes to their election laws or voting procedures.3 Legal scholars argue that Section 5 has been the most crucial provision. For instance, MacCoon (1979, 107–8) argues that Section 5 “has become one of the most useful statutory tools for the enforcement of voting rights,” and Motomura (1983, 190) wrote that it “has emerged as perhaps the most important for the continuing protection of minority voting rights.” With broad support, Congress reauthorized the VRA—including Section 5— most recently in 2006. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional and held that the coverage formula can no longer be used to subject jurisdictions to preclearance. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts observed that voter turnout and registration rates in covered jurisdictions “approach parity” with those in noncovered jurisdictions, and argued that “the conditions that originally justified [the formula] no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions” [570 US (2013); available at opinions/12pdf/12-96_6k47.pdf (accessed December 5, 2016)]. Thus, because the coverage requirement is “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the 3 Though the Fifteenth Amendment (ratified in 1870) guaranteed the right to vote to all citizens irrespective of race or color, only about a quarter of eligible Blacks were registered to vote in the South by the mid-twentieth Other important provisions include Section 3(c), the “bail-in” provision; Section 6, which allows the Attorney General to appoint federal examiners to oversee a jurisdictions’ registration and voting procedures; and Section 11, which prohibits election officials from refusing to allow a qualified person to vote or to count a voter’s ballot, and institutes penalties for voter fraud. 515 RACE, REPRESENTATION, AND THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT present day,” the Court ruled the coverage formula unconstitutional because “Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy [voting discrimination] speaks to current conditions.” While the Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, without a coverage formula the preclearance provision was rendered moot. In Shelby County, the government argued that while racial disparities in registration and turnout may have closed, the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act acted as a deterrent for particular jurisdictions to implement election laws with racially disproportionate effects. In making a similar argument, Katz (2014) argues that the requirement for covered jurisdictions to seek federal approval before changing their voting laws likely dissuaded these jurisdictions from considering such changes in the first place. Following the Shelby decision, several states that were previously subject to judicial preclearance— including North Carolina and Texas—implemented new voting restrictions that some argue will disproportionately affect Black voters (Herron and Smith forthcoming). The Court’s ruling in Shelby and the government’s argument in defense of the coverage formula raise new questions about the effectiveness of the VRA and its necessity in the contemporary United States. Representation and the Voting Rights Act Both Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act contain provisions to help protect the electoral rights of marginalized groups, but they work through mostly separate mechanisms. Many of the advances in minority representation that are attributed to the VRA, such as increased numbers of Black elected officials, are due to the prohibition of vote dilution in Section 2(b). Under this provision, minority populations could achieve increased substantive representation by electing members of their group to office. Section 5, however, invokes a different mechanism, namely, the protection of voting rights.4 Jurisdictions that were subject to federal preclearance were required to demonstrate that a proposed change to election law did not have “discriminatory effect” or “discriminatory purpose.” According to Beer v. United States (1976), “discriminatory effect” was defined as retrogression, commonly operationalized as any change that reduced the opportunity for minority voters to elect candidates of their 4 As noted above, Section 2(a) prohibits the use of voting procedures that result in racial discrimination; however, Section 5 requires jurisdictions subject to preclearance to present an affirmative case and receive approval before making any changes to election law. choice. However, this standard was significantly modified by the Georgia v. Ashcroft (2003) decision, which allowed jurisdictions to choose whether their claim of nonretrogression was based on either the ability of minority groups to elect candidates of their choice or the degree of overall minority influence.5 Proponents of the VRA argued that voting rights were critical for securing political representation. For instance, several days after the VRA of 1965 became law, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. made just this argument when addressing the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King argued that “the Negro community must become fully conscious of its potential political power, of its growing ability to change, through concerted political actions . . . the complexion of Congress and the major parties” (Ninth Annual Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Birmingham, AL; August 9-13, 1965). Thus, by eliminating sources of racial bias in ballot access, and by restricting the ability of certain jurisdictions to change their election laws in ways that may have disproportionate effects on minority voters, civil rights leaders argued that the VRA offered the potential for racial minorities (and language minority groups, with the 1975 amendments to the VRA) to exert real influence over political outcomes. Thus, this argument implicates the importance of protecting ballot access for increasing Black substantive representation, whereas existing literature has focused mostly on the ways in which redistricting principles have been used to increase Black representation in legislatures. This argument is quite consistent with scholarship on accountability and representation. In a representative system, elections are the primary means by which citizens influence public policymaking. Citizens can hold elected officials accountable for their behavior, which provides incentives for officials to respond to constituent interests to the extent constituents have access to the ballot box. When Black Americans and other racial and language minorities were systematically denied ballot access, elected officials from those places had little incentive to represent these constituents’ interests. But upon the enactment of the VRA, Black Americans obtained newfound power to exert political control over their elected officials. Members of Congress from these jurisdictions, therefore, had incentives to respond to Black political interests because newly enfranchised Black voters could mobilize against legislators who failed to do so. As Filer, Kenney, and Morton (1991, 393) succinctly argue, “As the number of African Americans who vote increases, one would expect 5 Grofman (2006) and Canon (2008) provide detailed discussions of the Georgia decision’s implications for Section 5 jurisprudence. 516 SOPHIE SCHUIT AND JON C. ROGOWSKI government to treat them more favorably.” Because of the greater federal scrutiny around voting access that was afforded districts subject to preclearance, legislators from these areas would have been more supportive of civil rights than legislators representing constituencies that were not covered by preclearance. Prior research has found support for this general argument in other contexts where voting rights were guaranteed. For instance, the expansion of the franchise in Europe between 1830 and 1938 was associated with increased government spending on infrastructure and internal security (Aidt, Dutta, and Loukoianova 2006). Similarly, women’s suffrage in Europe and the United States was accompanied by increased government expenditures, particularly on social welfare programs targeted to women, and liberalism of legislative voting records (e.g., Abrams and Settle 1999; Aidt and Dallal 2008; Lott and Kenny 1999). Black voter registration and turnout surged after the VRA was passed (Tate 1993), indicating that Blacks used their guaranteed voting rights to influence government policy. Research on Black political representation declares it “hardly inarguable that political mobilization has brought blacks increased influence over public policy matters” (Combs, Hibbing, and Welch 1984, 424) and concludes that Blacks have secured “better representation and greater policy responsiveness on civil-rights legislation” since the mid-1960s (Whitby and Gilliam 1991, 517). But while previous research focuses on how the creation of majority-minority districts after the VRA increased Black political representation, it is much less clear whether the voting protections of the VRA also led to general increases in Black political representation. As the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby makes plain, documenting the effects of the VRA has important implications for how contemporary courts and political leaders interpret and revise its provisions. Empirical Strategy We study the effects of the VRA on Black political representation by focusing on the preclearance provision specified in Section 5. The units of analysis in our study are the legislative voting records of members of the U.S. House. While an ideal research design would allow ...
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Final Answer



The Voting Rights Act
Institution Affiliation



Selected Event

The selected historical event is the passing of the Voting Rights Act and how it eliminated legal
barriers that prevented African Americans from voting, a right guaranteed under the 15th
Secondary sources
Under this category of sources, I will use the article, Schuit, S., & Rogowski, J. C. (2017 ).
Race, Representation, and the Voting Rights Act. American Journal of Political Science , 513–526. This

article is relevant and appropriate for this research because it looks at how the VRA resulted in
the election of individuals responsive to black interests in political offices. It also looks at the
role VRA’s provisions played in advanc...

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