County officially challenges federal government over sections of voting act

Published 7:20 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The county filed a lawsuit April 27 to challenge the constitutionality of sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act forbid cities and towns in nine states, including Alabama, from making any changes in voting practices or procedures without approval from the federal government.

According to a press release from the Project on Fair Representation, a not-for-profit legal defense fund paying for Shelby County’s lawsuit, the county is asserting Sections 4(b) and 5 exceed Congress’ constitutional authority. The county is also alleging Congress reauthorized those sections of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 without gathering enough evidence of intentional racial discrimination in voting in the affected jurisdictions.

Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, said in the press release the Voting Rights Act changed history for the better when it was installed. However, minorities in Alabama now vote at levels equal to or greater than white voters, and it’s time for changes to the act, he said.

“It is unfair and unconstitutional for Congress to begin to punish Shelby County in 2010 for conditions that existed in 1965,” he said.

County attorney Butch Ellis announced the lawsuit at the April 26 County Commission meeting.