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Article - On Campus Only

Publication Date



This article develops a legal and theological critique of the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder decision that dismantled portions of the Voting Rights Act. Defending the Voting Rights Act in light of four basic features of voting rights—access, participation, empowerment, and expression of conscience—I refute the Shelby decision in terms of its oversimplified notions of discrimination and its overly narrow construal of federalism as state sovereignty and equality. I draw upon Catholic social teaching's subsidiarity and Johannes Althusius's federalism to defend the individual and communal dimensions of voting rights. I examine post-Shelby developments, including voter-identification laws, and I argue that such laws are unfounded and have deleterious effects. I conclude by offering modest recommendations for a post-Shelby world, including continued roles for Congress and the Department of Justice, the use of intermediary organizations, and the rescinding of felon disenfranchisement laws.

Recommended Citation

Rothchild, Jonathan. “FEDERALISM, SUBSIDIARITY, AND VOTING RIGHTS: CRITIQUING THE SHELBY COUNTY DECISION THROUGH JOHANNES ALTHUSIUS AND CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING.” Journal of Law and Religion, vol. 32, no. 1, 2017, pp. 147–171., doi:10.1017/jlr.2017.15.