County Voting Rights Act challenge going before federal judge

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

Shelby County’s challenge against the constitutionality of sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will go to a district court in Washington D.C. Sept. 10.

County Attorney Butch Ellis said the Sept. 10 hearing is still at the beginning of the process, however, as a federal judge will consider procedural issues and preliminary questions.

“The Justice Department wants to slow the process down and do discovery and preliminary things that will keep it from going to the court for a while,” Ellis said. “It’s our hope, of course, that we want to get this up for a decision as quickly as we possibly can.”

The county’s challenge concerns sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which forbids cities and towns in nine states, including Alabama, from making any changes in voting practices or procedures without approval from the federal government.

The county filed suit to challenge those sections of the act on April 27.

The Justice Department, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, is charging that Sections 4(b) and 5 should remain in place.

Ellis said it’s a distinct possibility the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule on the county’s challenge.

“We’re hoping that the Supreme Court will finally rule and will face head-on the question of whether or not Section 5 applies to governments like Shelby County,” Ellis said.