Protestors gather outside of the US Supreme Court in support of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, in Washington, February 27, 2013. The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, June 25, 2013, announced a vote of 5 to 4 in the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder case, striking down part of the act. (Christopher Gregory / The New York Times)
In 2016, the US will hold the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 – and thousands of voters in the South will face new barriers to voting. That’s because states and counties previously covered under the VRA’s preclearance provision requiring federal approval for voting changes were released from those requirements following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
In his new book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, Ari Berman, a national correspondent for The Nation and an investigative fellow at The Nation Institute, looks back on the 50-year history since the VRA’s passage to shed light on the current debate over the right to vote in the South and across the country. He describes the ways that the VRA was a success and also the opposition to it that began as soon as law was enacted.
On November 20, Berman was in Durham, North Carolina for an event at the Regulator Bookshop co-hosted by the Institute for Southern Studies, publisher of Facing South. We sat down with Berman before the event to talk about the VRA’s impact in the South and the region’s role in the modern fight for voting rights.