Counties Sue on Voting Rights Act

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on May 22, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals released a panel decision on Friday regarding an old civil rights law created to protect minority voters in certain regions where there was a history of racial discrimination.

The lawsuit was brought by Shelby County, Alabama. The county argued that the law in question was an impermissible federal encroachment over state's rights. The county also argued that the law was no longer needed.

In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress did not cross the line when it renewed a requirement that nine states and several local governments had to get federal permission if they wanted to change their election procedures.

Most of these localities were in the South.

At the center of the dispute was the Voting Rights Act, enacted in 1965. Section 5 of the law states that governments with a history of racial discrimination need to obtain the permission of the Justice Department or a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prior to changing their electoral procedures.

The U.S. Court of Appeals found that electoral discrimination continued to exist and that there had been hundreds of cases where the U.S. Attorney General objected to certain proposed voting changes for their discriminatory effect.

The states currently affected by Section 5 of the law include Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Several counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota are also covered by the law.

The appeals decision now paves the way for the case to head to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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