DOJ Shifts Voting Section Priorities after Shelby County Guts Section 5

From DOJ’s budget submission to Congress (p. 44):

Because of the Shelby County case, the Voting Section’s work will necessarily shift to greater affirmative efforts to detect and investigate voting practices that violate federal law, to more affirmative litigation to enjoin such practices, and to additional monitoring of elections throughout the country each year.

Resources previously devoted to Section 5 reviews are being shifted to monitoring, identifying and investigating voting changes that may violate federal law, as well as assisting with litigation challenging such practices. These monitoring, investigative and litigation efforts will be very resource intensive.

VOT will place major emphasis going forward on affirmative enforcement of Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits voting practices that are discriminatory in purpose or effect. VOT has opened a number of new investigations under Section 2 as a result of its initiative to identify election systems that may dilute minority voting strength, in light of the new decennial census data released in 2011, as well as investigation of voting practices that may deny or abridge the right to vote. In FY 2013, VOT has filed a Section 2 case against Texas challenging its 2011 photo identification requirement for voters, and VOT filed a complaint in intervention under Section 2 in a case against Texas challenging its 2011 statewide redistricting plans. The D.C. District Court had previously found Texas had failed to meet its burden of proving that its voter identification law and its statewide redistricting plans were not discriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Those decisions were vacated after the decision in Shelby County. Also, in FY 2013, VOT filed a Section 2 case against North Carolina challenging its 2013 photo identification requirement for voters and new procedures regarding early voting, same day voter registration and provisional balloting. In these new cases under Section 2 , VOT is also seeking to have the federal courts impose a new preclearance requirement on Texas and North Carolina under Section 3(c) of the Act to prevent implementation of new discriminatory voting changes. The Department also has filed amicus briefs on Section 2 issues.

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