In Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. _____ (2013), the United States Supreme Court declared § 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (the "Act") unconstitutional, effectively eliminating the requirement for political subdivisions in Arizona to seek prior approval before implementing changes to their voting practices. Section 4(b) set forth the formula used to identify Arizona as a covered jurisdiction under the Act. As a covered jurisdiction, Arizona and all political subdivisions within the State were required to comply with the preclearance requirements in Section 5 of the Act and obtain approval from the United States Department of Justice prior to implementing changes to their voting practices and procedures.
The Supreme Court's elimination of the coverage formula in Section 4(b) releases Arizona from the preclearance requirements of Section 5. Arizona political subdivisions can now immediately implement changes in their voting practices and procedures without first obtaining approval from the Department of Justice. Political subdivisions with pending preclearance requests or revised voting procedures should contact an attorney to discuss further.
The ruling does not affect the requirements in Section 4(f) of the Act, which guarantee the right to register and vote to those citizens with limited English proficiency. Political subdivisions are still required to translate election related documentation to Spanish and, if applicable, comply with the unwritten language requirements of the Navajo and Hopi tribes.
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