I am here today to discuss Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c, and in particular the need for congressional action to restore Section 5’s protections against purposeful racial discrimination in jurisdictions that are subject to the Section 5 preclearance requirement. Those protections were fundamentally weakened by the Supreme Court’s January 2000 decision in Reno v. Bossier Parish School Board. In that decision, a narrow Supreme Court majority said that the Justice Department must approve certain racially discriminatory voting changes under Section 5, even if the Justice Department determines that the discrimination was intentional. As I will explain, the Bossier Parish decision was at odds with Congress’ intent in enacting Section 5 and with well-settled precedent.
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