Today U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates stayed LaRoque v. Holder, CIR’s challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Proceedings — including consideration of our motion for summary judgment — are stayed until the court decides the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case. In that motion, DOJ contends that Stephen LaRoque and his fellow Kinston citizens and candidates lack standing to challenge the constitutionality of Section 5, even though DOJ is using Section 5 to block their ability to benefit from a nonpartisan voting plan passed by 63% of Kinston residents.
Also today, Judge Bates ordered the Justice Department to respond to a motion for summary judgment in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, the companion case to LaRoque. Filed afterLaRoque, the Shelby County case also challenges the constitutionality of Section 5, but on narrower grounds. Both cases contend Section 5 violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it imposes preclearance requirements selectively on Southern jurisdictions on the basis of elections data now forty years old. InLaRoque v. Holder, we argue in addition that Section 5 violates the Fifteenth Amendment because it requires Southern states to maximize the ability of minority voters to elect their “candidates of choice” — a federally-mandated preference for one racial group at the expense of other racial groups.
Assuming Judge Bates agrees that the LaRoque plaintiffs have standing, both cases will proceed together through the courts as companion cases — in time, we hope, to prevent the unconstitutional use of Section 5 to distort the nationwide redistricting that will take place in 2011-2012.