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NYT and WP Editorials Today on Voting Rights


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires some jurisdictions to get permission from the federal government before making changes in any practice or procedure related to voting. Predictably, the New York Times and Washington Post each have editorials this morning that urge the Court to uphold the law.

Also predictable is that the Times version is the more risible of the two, singling out Florida and Ohio for “the roadblocks they put in the way of voter registration drives.” Putting aside the question of whether this is true or not, what is indisputable is that neither Florida nor Ohio is among the states covered by Section 5. The Post, at least, acknowledges that Section 5 is “intrusive,” one of the features making it constitutionally problematic.

What is most ironic is that each editorial cites as a reason for keeping Section 5 the danger that, without it, districts may be “gerrymandered” (the Times) with “discriminatory redistricting plans” (the Post). This is ironic because the principal use of Section 5 these days is — as I discussed earlier this week on Bench Memos — to use its (unconstitutional) “effects” test to require racial segregation of voters by means of racial gerrymandering. So the problem of racial gerrymandering is a good reason for the Court to strike down Section 5, not a reason to keep it.


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