Texas Voting Rights Ruling

In an important decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a small central Texas water district can be exempted from a major provision of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Jim Bell reports.

In upholding the 1965 Voting Rights law, the high court ruled that a municipal utility district in Austin can apply for an exemption from from the provision that requires advance approval of any changes in the way its board elections are conducted.  Professor Gerald Treece of South Texas College of Law explains what this means.

"They said that all political subdivisions are going to be treated just like city governments, state government, all local government. They will all have the ability to ask, as I call it, to opt out or to bail out of these pre-clearance rules." 

The Austin MUD applied for exemption from the preclearance provision of the law because it wanted to change its voting location. They got the permission, but they felt that having to ask for Washington's permission was an unnecessary obstacle in a small area with no history of discrimination, so they took it to court.  They lost at trial and appealed, asking the court to allow them to opt out of the requirement on their own, or declare the law unconstitutional. The court ruled for the MUD, but also kept the law on the books. Treece says this is a major case because of what the court didn't do.

"Because the court was asked to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which would have freed the southern states from the burden of every time that there's a redoing of election lines have to get approval from the government."

The entire ruling in at Supreme Court US-dot-org

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.