Today, the Project on Fair Representation announces that Shelby County, Alabama filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in Shelby Co. AL v. Holder, (No. 11-5256) a case that challenges the constitutionality of the 2006 reauthorization of Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
The Petition can be found at www.projectonfairrepresentation.org .
Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act subjects certain States and political subdivisions to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which invades the sovereignty of these “covered” jurisdictions by requiring them to “preclear” all voting changes with the United States Department of Justice. All of nine states and parts of seven others are subject to these provisions.
Shelby County is a “covered” jurisdiction because, in 1965, the Attorney General determined that Alabama was using a prohibited voting test and less than 50% of the persons of voting age residing in Alabama voted in the presidential election of November 1964. As a result, Shelby County is regularly required to engage in the costly and burdensome process of submitting all voting changes, no matter how minor, to the Department of Justice prior to implementation.
Shelby County brought this challenge on April 27, 2010 arguing that Congress exceeded its enforcement authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the Constitution. The lawsuit claims that Sections 4(b) and 5 were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for another 25 years without sufficient evidence of current intentional racial discrimination in voting by “covered” jurisdictions. Furthermore, by continuing to base coverage on voting practices and data from 1964, the reauthorized statute does not take into account either the substantial improvements that have occurred in these jurisdictions during the last four decades or that any lingering voting discrimination is the same or worse in non-covered jurisdictions.
Shelby County did not prevail at the District Court for the District of Columbia or at the U.S. Court of Appeals (2-1 with Senior Judge Stephen Williams dissenting).
The Project on Fair Representation, a Virginia-based not-for-profit legal foundation, is providing all of the resources for the lawsuit.
Edward Blum, Director of the Project on Fair Representation, said, “This case presents the Supreme Court with an opportunity to strike down an outdated and unnecessary portion of the Voting Rights Act that punishes some states for voting transgressions that are long gone. It makes no sense today that Alabama, Virginia, and Arizona are subject to federal oversight regarding elections while Arkansas, West Virginia, and New Mexico are not.”
Blum noted, “The data proving remarkable changes in racial conditions in these jurisdictions are irrefutable: Criteria such as minority voter registration rates, election turnout, success of minority candidates, and other factors, indicate there is no meaningful and quantifiable difference in the voting rights exercised by minorities in the jurisdictions covered by Section 5 and non-covered jurisdictions. In fact, the evidence suggests that the covered jurisdictions offer greater opportunity for minorities to participate at the polls than non-covered ones. Congress knew this in 2006, but chose to ignore it.”
Blum added, “The federal bureaucratic burdens imposed on Shelby County and other covered jurisdictions will continue until the constitutional issues are definitively resolved by the Supreme Court. The time to settle them is now.”