Rule of Law

Judge Dismisses Alabama County’s Challenge to Federal Voting Law


Wall Street Journal
Judge Dismisses Alabama County’s Challenge to Federal Voting Law
By Nathan Koppel
September 21, 2011





The federal Voting Rights Act remains intact, after D.C. federal judge John Bates (pictured) dismissed a challenge to the law from Shelby County, Alabama.

The federal law requires states and voting districts throughout the country (but mostly in the south) to seek approval from the Department of Justice before making changes to their election procedures.

Shelby County, backed by conservative legal groups, claims in its lawsuit that the Voting Rights Act — enacted in 1965 and extended by Congress for another 25 years in 2006 — relies heavily on past discrimination in determining which jurisdictions are covered by the approval requirement.

Justice Department attorneys, backed by civil rights groups, have defended the voting law, contending that Congress extended the law with overwhelming majorities based on evidence that racial discrimination continues today.

Bates today sided with the government, according to this item in the Shelby County Reporter. “Bearing in mind both the historical context and the extensive evidence of recent voting discrimination,” Bates wrote, dismissing the suit, “the Court concludes that ‘current needs’ – the modern existence of intentional racial discrimination in voting – do, in fact, justify Congress’s 2006 reauthorization of” the sections of the law that were at issue in the case.

David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center issued a statement applauding the ruling. “The Framers of the Fifteenth Amendment gave Congress broad powers to make sure that the right to vote was actually available to all Americans without regard to race,” Gans said.

The Law Blog has sought comment from Butch Ellis, counsel to Shelby County.