Defining Race: The Obama Phenomenon and the Voting Rights Act

Janai S. Nelson, Defining Race: The Obama Phenomenon and the Voting Rights Act, 72 Alb. L. Rev. 899 (2009).

Abstract:  These published remarks discuss the conflicting implications of President Obama’s electoral success by focusing on the growing number of electoral successes of African-American candidates in at-large elections in majority white – or at least not majority black – contests, and on what these successes might mean for challenges to the path-breaking legislation that helped to set that entire trend in motion: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The author briefly recounts the modern narrative of Voting Rights Act successes and situates the Obama candidacy along a broader continuum of black elected officials. She then explores the predicted impact of Obama’s success on the continued protection and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by using two recent federal court challenges as a frame: Bartlett v. Strickland and NAMUDNO v. Holder.

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