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Publication Title

Washington University Journal of Law & Policy

Abstract

In this Essay I reflect on the impact of the Voting Rights Act (“the Act”) and what growing racial diversity portends for American democracy in the twenty-first century. The enduring quandary of the Act, in my view, is that it attempts to ensure meaningful political participation for the traditionally disenfranchised while operating against a backdrop of still-divisive race relations. The historic cleavage between blacks and whites in the South remains a centuries-old conundrum, familiar to any student of American politics. Such racial divides are less pronounced nationally. But it remains the case that race and political affiliation are substantially correlated and that whites gravitate to the Republican Party while African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans gravitate, in varying degrees, to the Democratic Party. Ultimately, I conclude that as long as such pronounced racial cleavages remain evident in party affiliation, the risk of minority voter suppression is such that the Act’s race- and language-minority protections will continue to be necessary. At the same time, I acknowledge the unintended consequences of the Act and racial gerrymandering, arguing that unless and until we create a political discourse and legal context that encourages, rather than discourages, enduring interracial alliances, the health of American democracy remains insecure.

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