St. Mary's Law Journal


In Holder v. Hall, the Court held the size of a government body is not subject to a vote dilution challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Act consists of two primary components, Sections 2 and 5, designed to eliminate and prevent subtle voting practices and procedures utilized to obstruct minority voter participation. Section 5 requires states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to obtain federal preclearance before changing a voting standard, practice, or procedure. Section 2 addresses the existing methods utilized to deny or abridge a citizen’s right to vote.  In Holder, the Court stated a court must find a reasonable alternative benchmark, or measure of undiluted voting strength when a minority asserts a vote dilution claim. The Court acknowledged and distinguished prior holdings that deemed changes in the size of a government body subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Act. Holder illustrates an enduring dilemma the Court has encountered in interpreting the scope and purpose of the Act as applied to claims of vote dilution: justifying the formulation and application of proactive, race-conscious remedies under the authority of a color-blind Constitution. By declining to extend Section 2 to vote dilution claims challenging the size of a government body, the Court indirectly justified the continued employment of the Act as a vote dilution remedy yet maintained the overall integrity of the Act itself. However, by emphasizing the need for an objective benchmark in vote dilution analysis, the Court rebutted the proposition that the Act has degenerated into a standardless guarantor of minority electoral results. Thus, giving further credibility and justification to its current application to claims of vote dilution.


St. Mary's University School of Law