The state of New Hampshire and the Justice Department agree that the state shouldn’t have to seek permission from the federal government before making changes to its voting laws. But a conservative group that doesn’t think any state should be subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain jurisdictions to pre-clear any such changes, is trying to block New Hampshire’s so-called bailout, alleging it’s all part of a scheme to trick the Supreme Court. The Center for Individual Rights filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit last month to attempt to block New Hampshire from getting out of Section 5, alleging the 10 New Hampshire towns or townships covered by the provision aren’t entitled to a bailout under the law.
Section 5 is one of the toughest weapons the federal government has to fight racially discriminatory voting laws. All or parts of 16 different states with a history of racial discrimination are required to have either the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division or a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C. sign off before they make any changes to their voting laws.
But with the constitutionality of Section 5 before the Supreme Court this year, the Center for Individual Rights is alleging that DOJ is interpreting the law “very liberally” in an effort to create a “false impression” that it is easy to bail out of the requirement. The federal government will likely argue that Section 5 is constitutional because states with a clean record can get out of it.