What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for Shelby County?

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, June 25, 2013

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Managing Editor

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder will not have a big impact on the county’s process of making changes to voting procedures or electoral maps.

Shelby County Attorney Butch Ellis said the county will continue to follow established practices, but will no longer be required to have changes approved by the Justice Department.

“We’re still doing everything the same way,” he said. “We just don’t have to have it precleared.”

Ellis said the voting-related changes must be approved by the County Commission before they are implemented, which has always been the case.

“Everything we do is in public meetings after public notice,” he said. “Everyone is welcome to participate in this process.”

Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said, from a practical perspective, the Supreme Court ruling immediately accomplishes one thing: Saving the county money.

“It’s saving us money on legal fees, time and effort to prepare legal documents” to submit preclearance requests to the U.S. Department of Justice, Dudchock said.

The county will begin seeing the effects of the decision within the next 12-16 months, as county officials prepare for the next election cycle and no longer have to prepare such preclearance documents, he said.

Ellis echoed Dudchock’s statement, adding that more than $1 billion has been spent in the 16 states affected by sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

“I think it will save a lot of money for the 18,000 cities and counties across the county that had to go through this preclearance requirement,” he said.

Ellis said Shelby County has likely spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last four decades to remain compliant with Sections 4 and 5. He said that money can now be used for education, public safety or other areas.

 Associate Editor for News Amy Jones contributed to this report.