The Supreme Court will consider whether to hear two cases challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act at its private conference on Friday, Nov. 2 – including one filed by the Kinston (NC) Citizens for Non-Partisan Voting, Nix v. Holder. Nix will be considered along with a companion case, Shelby County (AL) v. Holder.
Section 5 of the VRA requires certain states and jurisdictions to get U.S. Department of Justice preclearance of changes to voting practices.
In Nix, Kinston voters who had approved a 2008 referendum for non-partisan local elections are challenging the Justice Department’s refusal to preclear that change, saying that DOJ was using Section 5 in racially divisive ways. The Department had initially refused to preclear the change based upon on 2006 amendments to Section 5 encouraging voting practices that would help minority candidates for office attract white cross-over voters. Though DOJ ultimately allowed the changes, the Kinston voters are continuing their challenge, focusing on the 2006 amendments.
Shelby County involves a challenge to the formula for selecting jurisdictions covered by Section 5’s preclearance procedure, which was extended by the 2006 amendments to 2031. The county contends that the formula is based upon voting data from 35 years ago and that voting turnout and registration rates now approach parity in many of the covered jurisdictions.
A decision on whether the Court will hear the cases is likely late Friday or Monday, Nov. 5.