On June 22, 2009, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder that the Voting Rights Act (VRA) permits the appellant municipality to be exempted from the requirement of prior Department of Justice (DOJ) approval before implementing changes to voting laws if it can establish a history of compliance with the VRA. However, the court declined to rule on the constitutionality of Congress's 25-year extension of the section. The US District Court for the District of Columbia had found in favor of the federal government that the municipality could not "bail out" from the preclearance requirement. The court reversed this decision in a holding by Chief Justice John Roberts. Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Thomas would have decided the constitutional question and found that the provision was unconstitutional.
Learn more about Supreme Court and the Voting Rights Act from the JURIST news archive.