CIR moves for summary judgment in voting rights case

Today Lead Counsel Michael Carvin filed a motion for summary judgment in CIR’s case on behalf of citizens ofKinston, North Carolina, in which we ask the court to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional.

Section 5 requires “covered” jurisdictions (mostly in the South) to “preclear” any changes in voting procedures with the federal Department of Justice.  When the town of Kinston sought preclearance of its changeover to a system of nonpartisan elections, DOJ denied it.

As explained in our brief, Section 5 was enacted originally, in 1965, as an emergency response to Southern exclusion of blacks from voting based on race — exclusion so severe that Congress felt it could not be addressed adequately through lawsuits under other parts of the Voting Rights Act.  But as the Supreme Court itself noted recently, Southern discrimination against blacks in voting is largely a thing of the past; thus, we contend, it can no longer be used to justify special federal preclearance for Southern jurisdictions. In addition, Section 5 requires covered jurisdictions to maximize the ability of protected groups to elect their candidates of choice — a mandate for race-based decision making in the one area above all that should be free of it, election law.