Georgia Unfiltered

Search This Site

25 February 2013

Why are Majority Black Counties Like Clayton & Hancock Subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

I'm going to ask a question. But first, I'm going to cite some facts.

The 2010 Census reported that Clayton County is 66% black and 26% white. The same 2010 Census reported Hancock County is 73% black and 25% white.

According to the United States Department of Justice, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act "freezes election practices or procedures in certain states until the new procedures have been subjected to review, either after an administrative review by the United States Attorney General, or after a lawsuit before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. This means that voting changes in covered jurisdictions may not be used until that review has been obtained."

On the web page of its Civil Rights Division, the Department of Justice reads,

"Under Section 5, any change with respect to voting in a covered jurisdiction -- or any political subunit within it -- cannot legally be enforced unless and until the jurisdiction first obtains the requisite determination by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or makes a submission to the Attorney General. This requires proof that the proposed voting change does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. If the jurisdiction is unable to prove the absence of such discrimination, the District Court denies the requested judgment, or in the case of administrative submissions, the Attorney General objects to the change, and it remains legally unenforceable."


In other words, before Clayton County can change its county commission districts; before Hancock County can move a voting precinct from here to there, both counties must first get permission from the federal government. Clayton and Hancock counties, which are both majority black jurisdictions, must demonstrate to the feds that their "proposed voting change does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group."

Are you ready for the question? Alright, here it is . . .

. . . Why are majority black counties like Clayton and Hancock subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

AJC Political Insider Jim Galloway noted today that Attorney General Sam Olens argued Section 5 is "totally inappropriate" because it presumes covered jurisdictions like Clayton and Hancock counties "guilty before proven innocent."

What exactly are majority black counties like Clayton and Hancock guilty of? Is Clayton County guilty of denying the right to vote to the 26% of whites who live there? Is the black majority guilty of abridging the right to vote of the 25% of whites who call Hancock County home?

If the answers to those questions are no, then why are two majority black counties in Georgia covered under Section 5? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?