CIR filed suit today against Attorney General Eric Holder and in so doing challenged the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The suit grows out of a refusal last year by the Department of Justice to “preclear” the implementation of a non-partisan voting system approved by voters in Kinston, North Carolina. The voters had adopted the non-partisan system by a 2 to 1 margin. But because Kinston — along with many other Southern jurisdictions –is “covered” by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, it must obtain pre-clearance from DOJ before implementing any change in voting procedure. And in a letter, DOJ officials opined that Democratic voters would be less likely to vote for black candidates unless they ran as Democrats.
Today’s suit challenges the continued use of Section 5, which was enacted in 1965 as a short-term measure necessary to prevent some jurisdictions from interfering with the right of individuals to vote because of their race. As the Kinston case illustrates, by now Section 5 has become an unconstitutional intrusion into the right of state and local jurisdictions to make routine decisions about voting procedures.