Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs

Publication Date

Spring 2015


Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional, essentially defanging preclearance requirements of Section 5 and leaving racial and other previously disenfranchised minorities unprotected. Using social contract theory as the theoretical framework, empirical field study research was used to examine whether the Voting Rights Act has achieved the results in Mississippi that the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke Section 4 has assumed. Data were collected on race-specific voter registration and voting data, measures of vote discrimination, litigations and Mississippi legislative activity regarding voting rights. Findings indicate that the gap between minority and non-minority voter registration and voting has improved. However, other measures of vote discrimination show that Mississippi has a higher noncompliance rate than any of the other 1965 covered jurisdictions. These findings suggest that the decision in Shelby v. Holder may be premature, particularly as it relates to Mississippi. A Congressional remedy is needed to ensure that Black Mississippians have unfettered opportunities to exercise their Constitutional right to vote and sustain the gains in political power resulting from the protection afforded under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.



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