Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bailout for North Carolina Cities from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Virginia Does It N.C. Needs To Start

Reading other newspapers all over the area and also in other states like Virginia.Triadwatch came across this article from the Roanoke Times titled "Roanoke Seeks Bailout from Voting Rights Act" CLICKHERE . In the article it talks about how plenty of cities and counties all over Virginia are hiring a lawyer to plead their case that they do not need to be a part of the watch list from the justice department.. Has anyone around the triad area ever heard of a bailout of the voting rights act of 1965?

Here is a few quotes from the article in the roanoke times:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- signed into law 45 years ago Friday -- was put in place to outlaw discriminatory electoral practices such as poll taxes and literacy tests that prevented blacks and other minorities from voting.

It established federal oversight of elections, particularly in Southern states with a history of discrimination. Over the past 15 years, though, many city and county governments -- seeking ways to cut costs and save time by streamlining a lengthy federal process -- have applied to receive a "bailout" from certain sections.

Those parts require localities to receive approval from the Justice Department before taking any actions that affect voting, including moving precincts.

Seventeen counties and cities in Virginia have already received that bailout, including Salem, Botetourt County and Roanoke County. Bedford and Bedford County also are in the process of seeking a bailout from the Voting Rights Act.

then later in article there is this:

Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years in 2006, and last year the Supreme Court broadened the bailout provision to apply not just to cities and counties, but to other government jurisdictions as well. Those decisions, along with the pending need to redraw precincts for redistricting, has prompted an increasing number of bailout applications in recent years.

Alexandria lawyer Gerald Hebert has represented all of the Virginia localities seeking bailouts, starting with Fairfax in 1997.

"There's a list of things in the law that you have to prove, and they're fairly straightforward," Hebert said. "A jurisdiction that's not discriminating in its voting procedures normally has very little difficulty meeting them."

Hebert said the cost of a bailout -- about $5,000, mostly in lawyers' fees -- is quickly recouped when considering the expense to get preliminary clearance from the Justice Department to move a precinct.

"Even without lawyers, just in staff time, preclearance runs about $500," Hebert said. "If lawyers are involved, and it's a controversial or complicated one, then it can run into the thousands of dollars."

Obtaining a bailout would first require the council to take a vote in favor of pursuing the action. The city must then present data to the Justice Department demonstrating that it's eliminated any actions or devices that would discriminate against certain voters.

A three-judge panel ultimately makes a final decision on whether a locality has reached that point and is therefore entitled to be bailed out from the Voting Rights Act.

Why is this so important to cities all over North Carolina is because last year we had the Justice Department reverse the wishes of the citizens of Kinston N.C. to become a non partisan election . Here is a link to the whole situation with a post titled "U.S. Justice Department Spurns Kinston Decision on Elections" from the Carolina Journal online CLICKHERE . In the article here is a few quotes:

Sixty-four percent of Kinston voters said “yes” to a November ballot initiative that would have switched city elections from partisan to nonpartisan. The measure passed by a 4,977 to 2,819 margin, with seven of nine precincts approving the change. The DOJ decision leaves the city as one of five municipalities in North Carolina to hold partisan elections, and the only one east of Charlotte.

King, in a letter overturning the election, said the city did not meet its burden of proof that the change “has neither a discriminatory purpose nor a discriminatory effect.” King’s letter went on to declare, “Removing the partisan cue in municipal elections will, in all likelihood, eliminate the single factor that allows black candidates to be elected to office. In Kinston elections, voters base their choice more on the race of a candidate than his or her political affiliation, and without either the appeal to party loyalty or the ability to vote a straight ticket, the limited support from white voters for a black Democratic candidate will diminish even more. And given that the city’s electorate is overwhelmingly Democratic, while the motivating factor for this change may be partisan, the effect will be strictly racial."

This type of ruling against a city who wanted to have non partisan elections like plenty of other cities all over the state is assinine to hear but hopefully we will see more municipalities look at what is going on across the border in Virginia and start bailing out of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As you can see from the above photo it seems like only Guilford and Rockingham County are on the watch list from the Justice Department  in regards to the voting rights act in this area while surrounding counties do not have to follow. Triadwatch has been trying to find a complete list of cities and counties that have to follow this act but cannot find it online. If there is someone who can provide this information please do .

Hope the 2 articles enlighten everyone on this issue and understand what our Justice Department is doing lately.

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