In striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last week, members of the Supreme Court didn’t just neuter a major component of landmark civil rights law. The justices also eliminated the workload of several dozen federal employees. Until the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder on June 25, a few dozen of the 100 or so employees of the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had been assigned to review the 14,000 to 20,000 voting changes submitted each year by jurisdictions that needed DOJ permission before implementing new rules or, say, changing the location of a polling place. DOJ is reassigning those attorneys and support staff after the Supreme Court ruled that the Voting Rights Act Section 4 — the part of the law that defined which localities needed to have their laws precleared under Section 5 — was unconstitutional. The court’s Section 4 declaration effectively eliminates Section 5 enforcement.
“The Department is redeploying its attorneys and professionals who were previously assigned to Section 5 administrative review matters to assist in monitoring the implementation of new voting changes; investigating and, where appropriate, litigating violations under remaining federal voting rights laws,” Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson told The Huffington Post in a statement.
“As the Attorney General said on the day the decision was announced, the Department of Justice will be ‘using every legal tool that remains available to us’ to protect voting rights, including the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the court emphasized were unaffected by its ruling and other federal voting rights laws,” Iverson said.