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What Must Be Submitted Under Section 5

It is important to understand that Section 5 applies only to changes in practices or procedures affecting voting. Continuous use of a voting practice in effect prior to the jurisdiction's coverage date does not implicate Section 5, nor does continued use of a practice already reviewed under Section 5.

In Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544, 565 (1969), the Supreme Court stated that the coverage of Section 5 was to be given a broad interpretation. Any change affecting voting, even though it appears to be minor or indirect, returns to a prior practice or procedure, ostensibly expands voting rights, or is designed to remove the elements that caused objection by the Attorney General to a prior submitted change, is subject to the Section 5 review requirement.

Voting Changes Enacted or Administered by Any State Official Require Section 5 Review

There is a broad range of officials who enact or administer voting changes that are subject to Section 5 review, including legislative bodies (i.e., state legislatures, county commissions, city councils), executive officials (i.e., governors and mayors), and other officials (i.e., secretaries of state, county clerks, registrars). All voting changes adopted by a state court of a fully covered state requires Section 5 review, as do voting changes adopted by a state court in a partially covered state if the change is to be implemented in a covered political subdivision of that state.

Some Federal Court Orders Require Section 5 Review

The Supreme Court has held that a voting change developed and imposed on a jurisdiction by a federal court is not subject to Section 5 review. These are generally referred to as "court- drawn" or "court-ordered" voting changes. However, if a voting change ordered by a federal court reflects the policy choices of the jurisdiction--for example, if it was presented to the court as a consent decree agreed to by the jurisdiction-- Section 5 review is required. These are generally referred to as "court adopted" changes.

Updated June 29, 2023