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Federal judges consider Texas municipal challenge to Voting Rights Act

[JURIST] Three federal judges representing the United States District Court for the District of Columbia Monday appeared dubious during oral arguments [media advisory] in the case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Gonzales [DOJ case documents] that the 2006 reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act [text] should be found unconstitutional. The plaintiff, a municipal utility district in Texas, argued that Section 5, which requires voting officials in a select 16 states to obtain approval by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] before amending their voting procedures, is not neutrally applied to all 50 states and is thus unconstitutional. Section 5 is intended to protect voters in states with histories of racial profiling at the polls, and only allows changes in voter protocol that do not have a racially discriminatory purpose and will not negatively impact minority voters.

The lawsuit was filed last August, just a week after President Bush signed a law extending the Act [JURIST report] for another 25 years. AP has more.

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