Virginia, voting rights, and the removal of the preclearance requirement

The recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Right Act will have wide repercussions, particularly for Virginia, a state which was previously held to the preclearance requirement that was just struck down on Tuesday.

For those who are unfamiliar with the act, one of the key provisions for deterring and preventing racial discrimination at the polls was a procedure called “preclearance”. Certain states and counties that had a troubled history with discrimination and low turnout at the polls had to have any changes made to their election laws “precleared” by the federal Department of Justice before implementation. These states and counties were identified in 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was first passed, by using a formula based on turnout statistics and the use of voter suppression devices, such as poll taxes or literacy tests. Most of the states and counties identified in 1965 remained under the preclearance requirement until today, including most of Virginia.

Preclearance States and Countys under the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Source: New York Times

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New Demographic Data on the 2012 Presidential Election

The recent release of the Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration data from the Current Population Survey finally allows us to look deeper into the population that turned out to vote this last November.  And the results are quite astonishing.

For the first time, in a long history of disenfranchisement and suppression, African-American voter turnout surpassed the turnout rate among whites.  2012 was a low-turnout election overall, especially when compared to 2008, and the turnout rates among most of the major racial and ethnic groups went down from 2008 rates.  The turnout rate among blacks in 2012, however, went up.

National Turnout Rates for 2012 Election by Race

* Turnout is measured here as total votes divided by the voting-age citizen population. Data are from the CPS microdata for the Voting and Registration Supplement.

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