Perfecting the Voting Rights Act : protecting the suffrage of all citizens
Seth M. Dawson
May 9, 2012
Department or Program
In this thesis, I address the following question: Is the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) an appropriate protection for the right to vote given the importance of suffrage in America’s republican form of government, and how might it be improved? I answer that while the Voting Rights Act has effectively protected the right of racial minorities to access the ballot box, it has failed to appropriately protect the value of each vote. In attempting to protect against the dilution of minority votes, the VRA has become a racist project which uses essentialist judgments about the homogenous nature of racial groups to perpetuate systems of representation that allow racial majorities to dominate elections. I combine an analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore with the scholarly literature regarding electoral structures to argue that Congress has the authority to protect against vote dilution by establishing cumulative voting systems, which are more consistent with the demands of republican government and avoid the shortcomings of the VRA’s current remedy. Ultimately, I argue that Congress has the authority to abandon the racist section of the Voting Rights Act and replace it with a legislative mechanism through which local communities are able to establish cumulative electoral structures.