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CASES RAISING CLAIMS UNDER SECTION 2 OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

United States v. Ike Brown and Noxubee County (S.D. Miss. 2005)

In this complaint, the United States alleges that the practices of local election and party officials discriminate against whites in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This is the first case filed by the Department of Justice in which it alleges that whites are being subjected to discrimination in voting on the basis of their race. Further, it is alleged that officials have coerced, threatened, and intimidated voters in violation of Section 11(b) of the Act. The United States entered in a consent decree with the Noxubee County superintendent of general elections, administrator of absentee ballots, registrar, and the county government. The consent decree prohibits a wide range of discriminatory and illegal voting practices, and requires these officials to report such incidents if they receive information that they are continuing. This consent decree was approved by the district court and filed simultaneously with the filing of the complaint. The remaining defendants who are Noxubee County Election Commission and the local Democratic Executive Commission and its chairman did not enter the consent decree, and litigation of the claims will follow.

United States v. Berks County (E.D. Pa. 2003)

The United States alleged in its complaint that the county violated several sections of the Voting Rights Act. The facts showed that the county discriminated against Hispanic individuals, primarily Puerto Rican voters, through hostile treatment at the polls, failure to provide adequate language assistance, and by not permitting Hispanic voters to bring assistors of their choice into the polling place. These actions resulted in violations of Sections 2, 4(e), and 208 of the Voting Rights Act. The court granted a preliminary injunction on March 18, 2003, and permanent relief on August 20, 2003. Both decisions resulted in increased protection for Hispanic voters. Since the court entered its decision, the Department has monitored elections, utilizing federal observers pursuant to a provision of the order, to ensure compliance with the court's order.

United States v. Alamosa County (D. Colo. 2002)

In this case, the United States' complaint alleged the at-large method of election of the Alamosa County Board of Commissioners violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it diluted the voting strength of Hispanic voters in violation of Section 2. The case was tried in May 2003. On November 26, 2003, the court found for Alamosa County, entering an opinion finding that a Section 2 violation had not been proved.

United States v. Osceola County (M.D. Fla. 2002)

The complaint filed by the United States in this case alleged that the county violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Hispanic voters through hostile treatment at the polls and the failure to provide adequate language assistance. In addition, it alleged the county violated Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act by not permitting Hispanic voters to bring assistors of their choice into the polling places. On July 22, 2002, the parties entered a consent decree remedying the violations. Since the entry of the consent decree, the Department has monitored elections to ensure compliance with the consent decree.

United States v. Charleston County (D. S.C. 2001)

The United States alleged in its complaint that the at-large method of electing members of the Charleston County Commission violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of African American voters. Prior to the beginning of trial, the court issued a ruling for the United States on its motion for partial summary judgment that the residential patterns within the county were such that a council district could be drawn in which minority voters would be a majority of the population and that African American voters were politically cohesive. Following trial, the court issued an opinion finding the county's method of election violated Section 2. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the trial court's opinion. The opinion of the court of appeals is reported at 365 F.3d 341 (4th Cir. 2004). The county appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, and a certiorari was denied on November 29, 2004.

United States v. Crockett County (W.D. Tenn. 2001)

The United States alleged in its complaint that the method of electing the county's board of commissioners violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it diluted the voting strength of African Amerian voters. This case was resolved with the filing of a consent decree, filed simultaneously with the complaint.

United States v. Blaine County (D. Mont. 1999)

In its complaint, the United States alleged that the at-large method of election for the Blaine County Commission violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it denied Native American residents an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice. The district court first issued an opinion rejecting the county's challenge to the constitutionality of Section 2. Following trial, the court issued a decision holding that the plan violated Section 2 and ordered the county to adopt a remedial plan. The county appealed the district court's decisions on the constitutionality of Section 2 as well as its finding that the at-large election method violated federal law to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court of appeals decision, which affirmed both findings, can be found at 363 F.3d 897 (9th Cir. 2004).

United States v. City of Lawrence (D. Mass. 1998)

In this action, the United States' first complaint, filed in 1998, alleged that the city's methods of electing its city council and school board violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because both denied Hispanic citizens an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their chioce. The complaint also alleged violations of Section 203 and Section 2 of the Act based on the city's failure to provide Spanish-language minority citizens with electoral information and assistance in Spanish and the refusal to appoint Hispanic and Spanish-speaking poll workers. The United States and the city were able to resolve all the claims except those related to the method of election with a consent decree. The city subsequently agreed to change the method of electing its school committee from at-large to single-member districts, and to adopt an election plan for its city council and school board that complied with Section 2 upon release of the 2000 Census.

In 2001, the United States filed a supplemental complaint, which alleged that the post-2000 Census redistricting plans did not resolved the Section 2 violation. In a separate consent decree, the city agreed in 2002 to revise the districting plans for both bodies to provide an additional Hispanic-majority district. The consent decree also required the city to appoint a person who is bilingual in English and Spanish to the board of registrars and to the staff in the elections office.

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