More on the Georgia retreat by Justice

As noted here, the Justice Department ordered a full retreat on the Section 5 objection to Georgia's plan to verify that only citizens end up on the voter rolls.  The Justice Department had blocked the plan in May 2009 using Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Georgia decided to sue in U.S. District Court in July 2010 after more than a year of back and forth that got the state nowhere.  After the lawsuit was filed by Georgia, Justice blew a full scale retreat and was willing to preclear the nearly identical plan. 

A couple of documents:

Here is the preclearance letter.   This was forthcoming after the lawsuit was filed.

Here is the joint motion to dismiss.

A couple of lessons for other jurisdictions:

Lesson One.  The Voting Section at Justice simply does not want to be forced to defend the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Their nightmare scenario is to have multiple (6 or more) full scale defenses taking place in the context of Section 5 preclearances.  The Voting Section, at least right now, is ill equipped to handle a large volume of complex constitutional defenses.  At a minimum, it will stymie their aggressive offensive agenda.  Moreover, there is a very thin supply of defense oriented legal talent currently in the Voting Section.  One can count on one hand the number of lawyers who have significant defensive experience in a private litigation practice.  Their strength is offense.  And when lawyers for states and municipalities force DOJ to play defense, with so much on the line, they benefit their client greatly. 

Lesson Two.  It pays for jurisdictions to fight back aggressively in voting cases.   The State of Georgia pulled back the curtain and found the objection wasn't so great and powerful after all.  Georgia won.

Lesson Three.  Go to court and bypass DOJ on Section 5 submissions.   A federal judge will give you a more impartial hearing.  The more states and municipalities that go directly to federal court, the more likely plans and changes will be precleared.  

Lesson Four:  The original objection was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King in May of 2009.  She is the same person who ordered the dismissal of the New Black Panther case.

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