Today, a three-judge District Court in Washington, D.C. unanimously rejected the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1’s (NAMUDNO) argument that it is exempt from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 5 of the VRA requires all or part of 16 states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to have their voting procedures pre-approved (or “pre-cleared”) by the Department of Justice or a three-judge federal district court in Washington before they may be changed. Additionally, the panel rejected the argument that Congress’ decision to extend the Voting Rights Act in 2006 was unconstitutional. On behalf of our members in NAMUDNO, People For the American Way intervened in the suit, defending the constitutionality of Section 5. Following today’s decision, People For President Kathryn Kolbert released the following statement:
“There have been too many attempts in recent years to gut the voting rights act and turn back the hard-won progress of the civil rights era. Finally a victory in the courts — equal access to the ballot box prevailed.
“Sadly, we need these safeguards today just as much as we did when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act 43 years ago. Then, it was shameful barriers to the ballot box like poll taxes, overt intimidation, threats and violence. Today, the attempts to keep voters out of the ballot box are more subtle, but just as pernicious. We must continue the vigilant enforcement of the laws that have served us so well.”