The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against a Detroit suburb on Tuesday for allegedly violating the Voting Rights Act [text, PDF]. The DOJ claims [press release] that black residents have been denied an equal opportunity to elect city council members. The lawsuit contends that no black candidate has ever served on the Eastpointe City Council. In the lawsuit, the DOJ explains that Eastpointe has a black population that makes up roughly 40 percent of the total population. In votes, black voters continuously vote for the black candidate while white voters tend to vote against such candidates. This prevents black voters from having a city council official of their choice. The lawsuit contends [AP report] that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits practices where the ability of citizens to elect candidates of their choosing is diluted. The DOJ is requesting that Eastpointe be split up into four voting district, each of which can vote for a single city council member to make up the four council member panel. The lawsuit contends that due to the black community’s geographic situation, they would be able to constitute a majority in one of the single-member districts. The Eastpointe City Manager has stated he hopes to enter into a consent judgment to settle the lawsuit and that there are no philosophical differences between his office and the DOJ. Such a change would require an amendment to the city charger, which would have to go before the voters.
Voting rights and how voters are grouped and counted has become and increasingly important issue over the past year. Earlier this week the US Supreme Court blocked [JURIST report] a ruling ordering the redrawing of the congressional district map and special elections to be held in North Carolina. This came after the Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in racial gerymanderings cases from Virginia and North Carolina in December. In September several organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voter registration system [JURIST report]. In April the Supreme Court unanimously upheld [JURIST report] an Arizona commission’s decisions regarding the redistricting of voting districts in the state.