Burke Marshall


Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy. Free Press, 1994. Pp. 508, $24.95

Almost thirty years ago, after three insufficient runs at the problem in 1957, 1960, and 1964, the Congress of the United States overwhelmingly approved a comprehensive federal law designed to eradicate racial discrimination in voting. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was radical, in federalism terms. It superseded basic state law in many respects, providing for direct federal supervision, indeed implementation, of the process of registration and voting in numerous localities, and required preclearance by the Justice Department, or a court, of changes in laws affecting voting rights in jurisdictions deemed by a statistical yardstick, without any other proof, to have engaged in racial discrimination in the process. The Act was directed in the first instance at voter registration, through control of which hundreds of thousands of African-Americans had been denied by state officials any entry at all into politics. It had an almost immediate impact, resulting in the registration of thousands for the 1966 and 1968 elections, particularly in the States of the Deep South. Over a period of time this surge in registration combined with other factors to cause a stunning increase in the election of black officials to local and federal offices, from a few hundred in 1965 to over 8,000 by 1994, including thirty-nine members of the House of Representatives.

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