Voting Rights Act Bailouts Continue While Supreme Court Weighs Act’s Constitutionality

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Today, a proposed consent judgment and decree was presented to a three-judge court in Washington, DC, granting a Voting Rights Act bailout to the City of Wheatland, California. If approved, Wheatland will add to the growing list of state or local governments to bailout from the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions known as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are being challenged in a case currently being weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.  Numerous critics of Section 5 argued in briefs to the court that the bailout process was far too arduous and cost-prohibitive, neither of which is true. Earlier this year, Brown’s Valley Irrigation District (CA) bailed out, as did the State of New Hampshire. Two other local governments (the City of Falls Church, VA, and California’s Yuba County Water Agency) have bailout lawsuits pending in the DC Court.

 “The continuing string of successful bailouts make a mockery of the arguments that the bailout process is illusory, too arduous and too expensive. Further, these bailouts prove that the coverage formula self-tailors, and therefore Section 5 coverage adjusts to current needs required to protect the franchise,” said Campaign Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, who serves as legal counsel for the California jurisdictions, the State of New Hampshire, and the City of Falls Church in his capacity as a solo practitioner.  “The Voting Rights Act remains a vital bulwark of our democracy but these jurisdictions, like many others, have proven that they maintain nondiscriminatory voting practices and no longer require Section 5 coverage. Still more bailouts are in the works proving beyond a doubt that the bailout process is working effectively.”

 To read the joint motion to enter consent judgment and decree, click here. To read the proposed consent judgment and decree, click here.

The Campaign Legal Center filed a friend of the Court brief discussing bailout in Shelby County v. Holder.  To read the brief, click here.