A Price Too High: Efficiencies, Voter Suppression, and the Redefining of Citizenship

Source: Atiba R. Ellis, Southwestern University Law Review, Vol. 43, 2014

From the abstract:
This essay argues that the efficiency assumption in election law coupled with a resurgent preference for state-focused election administration has come to dominate considerations of the right to vote. Analysis of right-to-vote questions tends to turn around a calculus that puts at its center the efficiency of a state-dominated election system is the core interest the Court seeks to protect. This stands in contrast to a focus on the rights and status of the individual voter, especially where an individual voter confronts a voting regulation that fails to expressly deny that person the right to vote. In this sense, as is the case in a substantial amount of modern jurisprudence, this efficiency approach has overtaken the modern debates over election regulation.

This essay explores this issue by tracing the development of voting rights jurisprudence from a laissez-faire position of virtually unfettered deference to state control of the vote to a voter-centric rights-based framework, to a balancing approach that champions the states’ interest in efficiency coupled with the reemergence of deference to state power in regulating voting rights. This essay will then turn to examine whether this doctrinal development is appropriate to the modern rights-related issues concerning voting rights. Ultimately, this essay concludes how this new focus on efficiency is ultimately damaging to the right to vote as it fails to fully encompass how voters are ultimately excluded from the process due to the indirect costs placed on voters as an added mechanism of dissuasion from casting one’s ballot.