The Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) that gutted a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened the door for a dramatic surge in laws restricting access to the right to vote that particularly targeted racial minorities. These new laws were enacted in states controlled by Republican-dominated legislatures and Republican governors, and overwhelmingly in jurisdictions formerly subject to the preclearance under the VRA. In the wake of the “Big Lie” following the 2020 presidential election, many of these same states “doubled down” on new voter suppression measures and enacted new laws that make it easier to subvert election results. I argue that the recent wave of attacks on the voting rights of racial minorities is an example of the doctrine of nullification—the tendency to allow legislation and constitutional amendments designed to protect the rights of African Americans to remain technically the law of the land while divesting them of their enforcement powers. Utilizing principles derived from the Nullification Crisis of 1832–1833, I argue that the doctrine of nullification provides a useful framework with which to analyze the history of attacks on the voting rights of African Americans and other racial minorities—both during the Reconstruction period and in the current era.
The Ghosts of Calhoun: Nullifying the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since Shelby
Albert L. Samuels; The Ghosts of Calhoun: Nullifying the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since Shelby. National Review of Black Politics 1 October 2022; 3 (3-4): 83–119. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nrbp.2022.3.3-4.83
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