Race, Racism and the Law 
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Article 5(c) Political Rights

United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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 Political Rights. As required by Article 5(c), U.S. law guarantees the right to participate equally in elections, to vote and stand for election on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, to take part in the government as well as in the conduct of public affairs, and to have equal access to public service.

These guarantees arose in the mid-1960s in response to the continued discrimination against Blacks in the electoral process despite the ratification in 1870 of the Fifteenth Amendment, which was intended to protect the right to vote from denial or abridgement on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. With the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the political process started to become open to Blacks. As interpreted, this statute also reaches discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin. It also requires that bilingual voting information be made available where more than 5 percent of the population or 10,000 individuals within a jurisdiction speak a language other than English. The statute was amended in 1982 to prohibit practices that result in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote.

The Department of Justice is responsible, along with private plaintiffs, for the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The Department brings suits in federal court under Section 2 of the Act to challenge voting practices or procedures that have the purpose or effect of denying equal opportunity to minority voters to elect their candidates of choice.

By operation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, any change with respect to voting that occurs in a specially covered jurisdiction (applies to nine states in their entirety and to parts of seven additional states) must obtain federal pre-approval before it can be put into affect. The federal review is designed to ensure that the voting change in question will not have the purpose or effect of making minority voters worse off. The Civil Rights Division reviews approximately 20,000 voting changes per year. In recent years, the Attorney General has blocked implementation of a wide variety of discriminatory changes, including annexations and at-large election systems that dilute minority voting strength, discriminatory local and statewide redistricting plans, discriminatory redistricting guidelines, and discriminatory voter assistance procedures.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has recognized a new cause of action that permits White voters to challenge redistricting plans enacted by state or local governments as unconstitutional. This cause of action requires that if a state or local government uses race as the "predominant factor" in redistricting, that use will be subject to strict judicial scrutiny. Under that standard, the action will only be upheld if there is compelling governmental interest in the use of race and if the use is narrowly tailored to meet that interest.

As of August 1, 2000, of the total 1,218 judges on the federal bench, 106 are Black (8.7 percent), 51 are Hispanic (4.2 percent), and three are Native American (0. percent). Of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, one is of a racial minority (Black). Of the 159 judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeal, ten are Black (6.3 percent), ten are Hispanic (6.3 percent), two are Native American (0.6 percent), and one is Asian (0.6 percent).

According to the Directory of Minority of Judges of the United States published by the American Bar Association, of the approximately 60,000 state court judges, 3,610 are of racial minorities (approximately 6 percent). Of this number, 1,680 are Black, 1,310 are Hispanic, 254 are Asian, and 42 are Native American.

With respect to the 535 members of the 106th Congress, 37 are Black (6.9 percent), 18 are Hispanic (3.4 percent), three are Asian (0.6 percent), and one is Native American (0.2 percent). Of the 50 state governors, only two are of racial minorities - both are Asian. Finally, of the mayors of the 25 largest cities in the United States, eight are Black (32 percent) and two are Hispanic (8 percent).

In 1992 the Census Bureau collected data regarding minority participation in local elected office through the 1992 Census of Governments. The census collected data regarding general purpose government officials (e.g., municipal mayors and city councilors) and special purpose government officials (e.g., school board members). Among the 419,761 officials for whom race or Hispanic origin was reported, 405, 905 were White (96.7 percent); 11,542 were Black (2.7 percent); 1,800 were American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut (0.4 percent); and 514 were Asian or Pacific Islander (0.1 percent). There were 5,859 local elected officials who identified themselves as Hispanic (1.4 percent). This data reflected a notable increase in minority representation since the last time the Census of Governments was conducted in 1987.

 

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Equality Before Tribunals ] Discrimination by Law Enforcement ] Overrepresentation in the criminal justice system ] Disparities in Sentencing ] Capital Punishment ] Prisons ] Article 5(b) Security of Person ] [ Article 5(c) Political Rights ] Article 5(d) Other Civil Rights ] Article 5(e) Economic Social and Cultural Rights ] Article 5(f) Access to Public Accommodations ]
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Parent Level:
Introduction ] General Report ] Legal Prohibition ] U.S. Reservations, Understandings and Declarations ] Compliance with Specific Articles ] Article 1 - Racial Discrimination ] Article 2 ] Art 3 Condemn Racial Segregation and Apartheid ] Article 4 Eliminate Incitements or Acts of Discrimination ] Article 5 Equality Under the Law ] Article 6 Assure Effective Protection and Remedies ] Article 7 Adopt Measures ] Conclusion ]
Units:
[Race and Racial Groups] [Citizenship Rights]  [Justice and Race] [Patterns of Basic Needs] [Intersectionality Issues] [Human Rights]
 

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Last Updated:
Friday, October 05, 2001  

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).