A federal appeals court in Washington is reviewing the constitutionality of a provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires certain local and state governments to get permission from the U.S. Justice Department before implementing electoral changes. Bert Rein, representing Shelby County, Alabama in the suit against the federal government, today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to strike down Section 5 of the 1965 law as unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled for DOJ last September.
Congress in 2006 reauthorized the section for another 25 years in a continued attempt to minimize discrimination against minority voters. Critics contend the section puts too much power in the hands of DOJ over local election-related decisions. The appeals court heard argument in a ceremonial courtroom to accommodate the more than one hundred spectators.
Rein, name partner at Wiley Rein, told a three-judge panel that the current condition in Alabama does not justify what he called the “extraordinary remedy” of preclearance. Section 5, Rein said, is a “burden on sovereignty” that effectively puts state and local electoral authority in federal receivership.