The Unintended Consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

Born from bloodshed in March 1965, when 600 black protestors marching for the right to vote in Selma, Alabama, were set upon by state troopers wielding clubs and tear gas, the Voting Rights Act was, as President Lyndon B. Johnson declared at the time, “a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield.” Unfortunately, in the four decades since its passage, amendments and legal developments have made this once simple law muddled and contradictory, far removed from its original purpose of ending voting barriers for millions of African Americans. The act has been transformed from a law designed to protect individuals’ right to vote to a gerrymandering tool used to further the electoral prospects of incumbent politicians of all races.

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