WSJ, August 22, 2021.
A ‘preclearance’ regime designed for Jim Crow is a poor fit in 2021 and probably unconstitutional.
The Senate’s theatrical push this year for H.R.1, the bill to federalize U.S. elections, was intended as a political show, since it never had the votes to pass. Part of the point was to build pressure for Democrats’ next proposal, H.R.4, also called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The text of H.R.4 was unveiled last week, and it also deserves to die when the House votes on it this week.
The bill’s biggest aim is to revive part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), which forced certain states and localities to get federal “preclearance” before altering election rules. The law helped to break Jim Crow in the South, but that was a different age. Preclearance was supposed to last five years. Congress has extended it to 2031, without revising the 1975 criteria that determined which states were covered.