Voting rights are always in the news in American politics, and recent court decisions and an upcoming election in 2018 make this especially true...

Voting rights are always in the news in American politics, and recent court decisions and an upcoming election in 2018 make this especially true today. Most discussions come back to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and whether it will continue to provide the voting rights protections it has in the past.

In Ballot Blocked: The Political Erosion of the Voting Rights Act (Stanford University Press, 2017), Jesse Rhodes, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, places the VRA into a political context. He aims to figure out the political puzzle of the VRA: Why, for fifty years, have both Democrats and Republicans in Congress consistently voted to expand the protections offered by the VRA, yet the act remains vulnerable? Why have Republicans consistently adopted administrative and judicial decisions that undermine legislation they repeatedly back?

Rhodes argues that conservatives have pursued a paradoxical strategy which takes advantage of high and low salience. The conservative strategy, according to Rhodes, is to accept expansive voting rights protections in highly visible votes in Congress while simultaneously narrowing the scope of federal enforcement in low visibility administrative and judicial maneuvers.

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