Judge turns aside challenge to Voting Rights Act
David Ingram ContactAll Articles
The National Law Journal
September 21, 2011

A federal judge in Washington ruled on Sept. 21 that Congress acted within its authority in 2006 when it extended the Voting Rights Act, including a section that requires some states and localities to get permission before changing how they run their elections.

The opinion by U.S. District Judge John Bates was a victory for civil rights advocates and for members of Congress who supported the act’s renewal. Bates described the nearly 20 hearings and 15,000-page record that lawmakers compiled leading up to the renewal — a record that Bates wrote demonstrated the continued existence of racial discrimination.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring preclearance of election changes by the Justice Department or a three-judge panel, has been under intense scrutiny. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped the question of the section’s constitutionality, but warned that it raised “serious constitutional questions.”

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Voting Rights Act Withstands a Challenge in the Deep South

The days of men wearing hoods and burning crosses seem to have mostly passed here in the Deep South. But they have been replaced by the days of men filing dubious lawsuits, funded by mysterious organizations.

That seems to be the take-home lesson from an effort in Shelby County, Alabama, to free itself from U.S. Justice Department oversight of its elections. The Shelby County Commission, in a lawsuit funded by a shadowy nonprofit group, claimed that portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unnecessary, burdensome, and unfair.

A federal judge yesterday ruled against Shelby County, finding that Congress had ample evidence that minority rights at the ballot box need continued monitoring. Congress voted overwhelmingly in 2006 to extend the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. Shelby County’s lawsuit challenged that decision, but U.S. District Judge John Bates said Congress was well within its rights.

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