The Shelby County, Alabama Case and Bailouts

Alabama State Capitol

Last month, I posted a blog listing six reasons why the Supreme Court should not grant the petition for certiorari in the Shelby County, AL case.  Nonetheless, last week, the Supreme Court issued an order granting the cert petition in the case.  This marks the second time in the last three years that the Supreme Court will consider the issue of the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

In its 2009 decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One (NAMUDNO), the Supreme Court avoided a decision on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act by reinterpreting the Act’s bailout provisions, to permit any political subunit in the 16 covered states to seek a bailout.  Since 2009, numerous local political subdivisions have sought and obtained a bailout in the wake of the NAMUDNO decision.  The number of bailouts since 2009 has more than doubled the number of bailed out jurisdictions from 1982 to 2009!  Today, the State of New Hampshire became the first State to seek a bailout since the 1982 amendments went into effect. I filed the complaint through my private practice and a copy is available here.

It should be important to the Court, in considering Section 5’s constitutionality, that not a single jurisdiction seeking a bailout has been turned down, and that States and political subdivisions are pursuing bailouts with ease in greater numbers than ever before.