Q&A: Narrowing down the February 2014 topic

Q: It seems like it will be really hard to narrow down the debate in February; I am a little confused on whether I talk about the corresponding section five or just to focus on section four.

What would be the best way to focus my researching and what do you think would be the strongest area to focus on for cases as well?


First and foremost, you want to understand both Section 4 and Section 5 of the VRA, no matter what you argue. The resolution, Resolved: The Supreme Court rightly decided that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act violated the Constitution, focuses on Section 4 because that is what the Supreme Court ruled on. This means that the Court ruled that the formula posed in Section 4 to require States to get preclearance, or approval, for their voting policies and measures, is unconsitutional.

The Department of Justice explains Section 5 as follows:

Section 5 freezes election practices or procedures in certain states until the new procedures have been subjected to review, either after an administrative review by the United States Attorney General, or after a lawsuit before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. This means that voting changes in covered jurisdictions may not be used until that review has been obtained.”

Section 5 is the idea of preclearance, that states’ election practices and procedures have to go through a Federal review process. This was not ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (though the concurring opinion of Justice Thomas it should have been struck down as well).


Regarding the second part of this question, I will first refer you to the topic analysis I have posted thus far for general background, the Pro, and the Con. These will explain the basic breakdown of arguments. The basic dichotomy is that Pro will focus on values and theory while Con will focus on empirics.

You should focus in on arguments that have both supporting evidence and argument that you can explain well. This is a difficult topic, so make sure that you understand what you are talking about and can convey it in an understandable way. The best check is to discuss it with your parents to gauge your approach.

Best of luck!



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