“Our country has changed,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the June Supreme Court decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to get federal approval before changing their election laws.
Roberts was right. The civil-rights legislation not only removed some barriers to voting that minority groups in those states faced in 1965, it also boosted the number of minority candidates for elected office there as well. But that racial progress, according to a new study, is now threatened because the landmark law is gone.
Between 1981 and 2006, the city councils that made the biggest gains in black representation were located in the nine states covered by Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The number of cities in the designated states with at least one black city-council member rose by 82 percent, from 552 to 1,004 cities, according to a study to be published in The Journal of Politics this month. The number of cities not covered by the legislation that had at least one African-American city-council member increased just 3.3 percent, from 732 to 756 cities.
This summer’s Supreme Court decision, the authors write, could harm black participation and representation in the mostly Southern states once covered by the Voting Rights Act. It may even, over time, lead to a reversal of a two-decade trend.
“It is important to understand the consequences of the discriminatory practices of the pre-civil-rights era,” said study coauthor Melissa Marschall, a political science professor at Rice. “Blacks not only encountered a number of vote-dilution practices (including barriers to registration) and outright voter intimidation, but they also faced significant economic barriers that limited their socioeconomic advancement. The VRA was designed to dismantle obstacles that discouraged black political participation.”
The study used data collected by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the International City County Manager Association.
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”