Bench Memos

Terry Pell on Polling Place Changes

Terry Pell of the Center for Individual Rights sends this trenchant observation:

At Wednesday’s oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. made much of the government’s claim that the Section 5 preclearance procedures continue to be necessary to deal with last-minute changes in polling places that are designed to make it harder for minorities to vote.

He claimed that the only way to stop this kind of “mischief” is to forbid the mostly Southern jurisdictions covered by Section 5 from implementing any election change until they satisfied the Attorney General that the proposed change won’t make it harder for minorities to exercise their right to vote.

So we wondered just how many times the Department of Justice has objected to a Section 5 preclearance request involving a change in polling place.  It turns out not many at all: out of 996 preclearance requests denied since 1965, only 39 involved a change in polling place — about 4%

And if anything, polling-place-change “mischief” has gotten better, not worse.  In the three months leading up last November’s election, the Attorney General received 568 requests to preclear polling place changes — about 14% of the total requests.  He precleared every single one of them.

In other words, discriminatory polling place changes have been rare all along.  In the most recent election, there were no problematic requests to change polling places in any covered jurisdiction.

Most Popular

Liberalism as Faith

The British philosopher John Gray is not someone to shy away from ‘difficult’ topics. If you are looking for a provocative long read this weekend, his new article in the Times Literary Supplement ought to be a contender. I didn’t agree with all of it (for example, I would argue that the supposedly ... Read More
Culture

Our Cultural Crisis: A Kirkian Response

Editors’ note: The following article is adapted from a speech the author delivered at the Heritage Foundation on March 14, 2018. Few would dispute that we are in the middle of a grave cultural crisis. A despairing conservative critic wrote: “We are on the road to cultural disaster.” He placed the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

An Enduring Error

Editor’s Note: The following piece originally appeared in City Journal. It is reprinted here with permission. Fifty-one years ago, in July 1967, in response to an explosion of rioting in poor black urban neighborhoods around the United States, President Lyndon B. Johnson created the National Advisory ... Read More
Culture

The Mournful, Magnificent Sally Mann

‘Does the earth remember?" The infinitely gifted photographer Sally Mann asks this question in the catalogue of her great retrospective at the National Gallery in Washington. On view there is her series of Civil War battlefield landscapes, among the most ravishing works of art from the early 2000s. Once sites ... Read More