NY Times Editorial: Voting Rights Act: By The Numbers

The New York Times today published an editorial calling for the need to combat the new flood of discriminatory voting laws within the surviving portions of the federal Voting Rights Act. The editorial reviews data from a new study on the VRA by  J. Morgan Kousser from Cal Tech. Professor Kousser reviewed empirical data  from thousands of VRA  cases  to show how the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision was wrongly decided.

It is worth noting that New York’s own record for Section 5 preclearance approvals was not stellar during the state’s thirty years under Section 5. Several statewide and New York City redistricting plans were either rejected or ran into problems at DOJ through the 1990s.

While the Justice Department precleared nearly every state and local redistricting plan after the 2010 census (except for the Texas House and congressional plans later rejected by courts), New York had a bumpy road at DOJ from the early 1970s through the post-1990s redistrictings (even though there were alleged political reasons for rejecting the 1992 Assembly plan). It was not until the 2002-3 round of state legislative and NYC city council redistrictings where New York State and City sailed through. Part of that reason was because racial polarization tests were conducted  before state assembly and city council plans were enacted, enabling redistricters to know whether plans were retrogressive before being submitted to DOJ.

Readers might be interested in a report on New York’s VRA history in a report authored by Juan Cartegena  at Latino Justice for the 2006 VRA reauthorization debate. A copy of that report can be accessed here.


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