Saturday, May 31, 2008

5531: Backing The Voting Rights Act.

From The Associated Press…

Court: Voting Rights Act provision constitutional

By Associated Press

A federal court ruled Friday that a key component of the Voting Rights Act is constitutional, rejecting a challenge from a city utility board in Texas.

Under the landmark law, which Congress extended in 2006 for another 25 years, states and towns with histories of racial discrimination must get Justice Department or court approval before making any changes to the way elections are conducted. The law was intended to keep state and local governments from passing laws making it harder for minorities to vote.

Shortly after Congress extended the law, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One, a government board formed to provide local services to about 3,500 people, sued. The board asked the court to exempt it from the law and said Congress had no constitutional right to pass a bill that tried to remedy past discrimination.

A three-judge panel in Washington rejected the case. The court ruled that the utility board didn’t qualify as a “political subdivision” and could not be exempted from the law. It also ruled that racial discrimination in voting persists and that Congress acted appropriately when it extended the law.

Under the law, challenges go before a single court made up of district and appellate judges. Any appeal would go directly to the Supreme Court.

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