The chances that Shelby County’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court have improved since the Justice Department announced it is rethinking its position in a similar North Carolina case. In a Jan. 30 letter to a lawyer for a group of voters in Kinston, NC., the assistant attorney general for civil rights said the agency has new information and will reconsider its 2009 objection to the city’s switch to nonpartisan elections. Assuming the Justice Department formally withdraws that objection, Kinston’s related lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act goes away.
Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California Irvine’s School of Law, said in an email that he believes the move would clear a path for the Shelby County, Ala., case to be the one that puts the Section 5 issue before the Supreme Court. Another possible appeal involving the voter identification law in South Carolina is also a contender.
The Justice Department also notified the appellate judges — who are scheduled to hear the North Carolina case on Feb. 27 — of the reconsideration The agency said it plans to make a final decision on its reconsideration by Feb. 10.