ARTICLE: DEFINING AND PROVING RACE DISCRIMINATION: PERSPECTIVES ON THE PURPOSE VS. RESULTS APPROACH FROM THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT Skip over navigation
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Copyright 1983 Virginia Law Review Association.

Virginia Law Review

ARTICLE: DEFINING AND PROVING RACE DISCRIMINATION: PERSPECTIVES ON THE PURPOSE VS. RESULTS APPROACH FROM THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

MAY, 1983

69 Va. L. Rev. 633

Author

James F. Blumstein *

Excerpt

THE recent debate over renewal and amendment of the Voting Rights Act 1 focused attention on two of the most important civil rights questions of the 1980's: what is discrimination and how is it proven? The answer to these questions is politically significant because of the widespread condemnation of race discrimination by our society. The questions are also important as a matter of principle because they require identification of the values underlying our condemnation of race discrimination.

Given the stakes involved, the acrimoniousness of the debate over renewal and amendment of the Act is understandable. 2 Rhetorical overkill on both sides generated ill feelings in a battle that appeared unnecessary and avoidable. Yet delving below the political posturing and abstract appeals to undefined principles of equality and effectiveness reveals more substance to the debate than met many an eye.

This article analyzes the debate over the amendment of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and uses that analysis to consider the notion of racial nondiscrimination in the voting rights context. The debate over section 2 examined whether discriminatory purpose or disproportional racial impact should be the yardstick by which to measure the legality of voting practices or procedures. That question is not unique to the voting rights context but is important throughout the civil rights area. 3 The voting rights debate, however, provides a rich backdrop against which to consider the general question.

This article shows that the substantive concept of "discriminatory effect" stemming from neutral legislation ...
 
 
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