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Jul 29

Voting Rights - And Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections

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Location: The Heritage Foundation's Van Andel Center

Noted scholar Abigail Thernstrom will present her newly published book on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the crown jewel of American civil rights legislation.  Thernstrom argues that southern resistance to black political power prompted a process by which the Act was radically revised both for good and ill.  The statute as currently interpreted seeks to ensure the election of blacks and Hispanics to legislative bodies in numbers proportional to their presence in the population; this focus on equality of results rather than mere equal opportunity to be elected is a radical, and dubious, revision of the Act.  Such race-conscious districting discourages the development of centrist "post-racial" candidates like Barack Obama.  Has the Voting Rights Act, which helped end Jim Crow, today become a period piece that serves to keep most minority legislators on the sidelines of American politics - precisely the opposite of what its original authors intended?  Would an updated law better serve the political interests of all Americans - minority and white voters alike?  How will the recent Supreme Court case from Austin, Texas questioning the constitutionality of a portion of the Voting Rights Act affect those issues?  Please join us for a spirited discussion of these and related matters.

More About the Speakers

Abigail Thernstrom
Adjunct Scholar,
American Enterprise Institute
and Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights