The Civil Rights Division occupies several unique roles in that redistricting process. Each, however, has the same focus: that the redistricting does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in a protected language minority group. We rely on two statutes to ensure that the redistricting process and the plans that result from that process comply with the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act
Section 2 of the Act is a nationwide prohibition against voting practices and procedures, including redistricting plans that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group. It prohibits not only election-related practices and procedures that are intended to be racially discriminatory, but also those that are shown to have a racially discriminatory impact. The United States and private parties may file a lawsuit against a redistricting plan alleging that it violates Section 2.
In addition to monitoring the redistricting activity in the country, the Division serves as a resource for all those involved in the redistricting process: elected officials, private citizens, legislative staff, or public interest groups. We have already started to fulfill that role for this cycle by designating voting section staff members to serve as points of contact
for each of the 50 states.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
Section 5 applies to sixteen states, either in full or in part. In those areas subject to its requirements, a change affecting voting, such as a redistricting plan, may not be used unless that jurisdiction can show that the change has neither a discriminatory purpose nor will have a discriminatory effect. This can be done in one of two ways. The jurisdiction can file an action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Unless the court determines that the jurisdiction has established the absence of both a discriminatory purpose and effect, the change cannot be implemented. As an alternative, the change can be submitted to the Attorney General. Unless the Attorney General informs the jurisdiction that it has not met its burden of showing the absence of both a discriminatory and effect within 60 days after receipt of a completed submission, the jurisdiction is free to use the change.
Most jurisdictions submit their voting changes to the Attorney General for review. Our best estimate is that the Department will receive over 2,700 redistricting plans for administrative review between 2011 and 2013.
Each week, the Voting Section publishes a Notice of Section 5 Submission Activity
, which lists all voting changes that it has received for review during the previous week. In addition, you can review the list of Pending Redistricting Submissions
Before the Attorney General and also check on the Status of Statewide Redistricting Plans
Policy and Guidance
The Voting Section has published a series of Questions and Answers to the National Voter Registration Act as aid to guide jurisdictions and to inform interested members of the public about the Act’s requirements.
To assist jurisdictions required to comply with Section 5 of the Act, the Attorney General has issued a set of Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is also published at 28 C.F.R., Part 51. On April 15, 2011, the Department issued a
implementing revisions to several sections of the procedures.
On February 9, 2011, the Division issued Guidance Concerning Redistricting Under Section 5
of the Voting Rights Act.
Some jurisdictions are covered by the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Sections 4(e), 4(f)(4), or 203. For those jurisdictions, the information concerning Implementation of the Provisions of the Voting Rights Act Regarding Language Minority Groups may be useful. This is also available at 28 C.F.R., Part 55.
The Department has prepared information to assist those jurisdictions seeking to terminate or “bailout” from coverage under the Voting Rights Act’s special provisions.