Professor Janai Nelson has authored The Cost of America’s First Black President on Reuters’s Great Debate blog. The essay discusses Tuesday’s decision by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder which struck down Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It considers the decision in the context of the myth of post-racialism that Obama’s election ushered in and what Congress’s obligation is in response. Here’s an excerpt:
What do we lose with Tuesday’s decision? Without the federal oversight formula intact, the Voting Rights Act has lost both its muscular force to prevent states and municipalities from enforcing discriminatory election laws and its subtler deterrent effect. States with a proven record of seeking to disenfranchise eligible voters will no longer confront the obstacle of a watchful Justice Department. Jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination, many with recent records of election law violations, can regulate elections unleashed with no expectations that they will maintain the hard-fought racial progress that the Voting Rights Act’s anti-retrogression standard enforced.