Document Type


Publication Date



Voting Rights Act, VRA, racial discrimination, Shelby County, NAMUDNO


The Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), the most successful civil rights statute in American history, is dying. In the recent Shelby County decision, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled that the anti-discrimination model, long understood as the basis for the VRA as originally enacted, is no longer the best way to understand today’s voting rights questions. As a result, voting rights activists need to face up to the fact that voting rights law and policy are at a critical moment of transition. It is likely the case that the superstatute we once knew as the VRA is no more and is never to return. If so, we need to figure out what, if anything, can, will, or should replace it. But before figuring out where to go from here, we need to understand first how we arrived at the moment of the VRA’s disintegration so as not to repeat the mistakes of the not too distant past. In this Article, we argue that the VRA is dying because the consensus over the existence and persistence of racial discrimination in voting has dissolved. From this premise, we outline three paths for the future of voting rights policy: (1) rebuilding a new consensus over the racial discrimination model; (2) forging a new consensus over what we call an autonomy model; or (3) reconceiving voting rights in universal terms.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, Race discrimination, United States, Shelby County v. Holder, Voting Rights Act of 1965