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Justice Department Prepares for the Demise of Federal Oversight of Southern Elections

Perez also said the Justice Department will increase enforcement of the foreign language provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the welfare agency registration obligations under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and even the much neglected MOVE Act.

When Perez opened up the discussion for questions and comments, both attorneys and non-attorneys suggested that the Voting Section focus on redefining the mission of the Voting Section to include the initiation of investigation and litigation into areas of the voting process not currently under the jurisdiction or expertise of the Voting Section. These new areas would include election administration procedures such as utilization and allocation of aging voting equipment, and finding imaginative new ways to litigate administrative problems such as long lines.

Those familiar with the discussions relate that the Voting Section historian Peyton McCrary suggested that all the Section 5 data that has been forcibly collected from the currently covered states over the decades would be a "gold-mine" of information to be used in future litigation by the Voting Section. Also, that the attorneys may need to be more "imaginative" in bringing vote denial cases to replace evaporating vote dilution cases.

Probably of most import, Perez informed the Voting Section that DOJ intends to make the argument to the Supreme Court that Section 5 is not over-inclusive because bailout provisions are no longer overly restrictive (in part because DOJ has ignored the plain language of federal law). DOJ has paved the way for additional bailouts, and not one bailout has been denied. Perez assured the group that despite potential cuts to the Department of Justice budget, the Voting Section had friends in the "highest levels of the White House" who valued their work.

If Section 5 is struck down, look for aggressive, precedent-challenged litigation from the Justice Department to expand foreign language ballots, to attack long lines, and for a variety of other actions the law probably doesn't support.