FOREMAN v. DALLAS COUNTY
In 1972, Texas became a covered jurisdiction for purposes of section 5 of Voting Rights Act of 1965. By statute, Texas authorizes counties to appoint election judges, who supervise voting at the polls on election days. In 1983 and several times thereafter, Dallas County changed procedures for selecting election judges. Each of the new methods used party-affiliation formulas. In 1996, various parties brought suit in Federal District Court against the county, claiming that section 5 required the changes to be precleared by the U.S. Department of Justice. The District Court concluded that preclearance was not required, as the county had simply exercised its discretion under a state statute to adjust the procedure for appointing election judges. The court also noted that Department's preclearance of a 1985 submission from the state operated to preclear the county's use of partisan considerations in selecting election judges.
Are Dallas County, Texas's changed procedures for selecting election judges exempt from preclearance under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
Legal provision: Voting Rights Act of 1965
No. In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that the fact that the county had exercised its discretion, pursuant to state statute, to adjust the procedure for appointing election judges according to party power, did not mean that the methods at issue were exempt from section 5 preclearance. The Court also concluded that the county's 1985 submission was insufficient to put the Department on notice that the State was seeking preclearance of the use of partisan affiliations in selecting election judges. Ultimately, the Court remanded the case, noting that because the record was silent as to the procedure used by the county for appointing election judges as of 1972, it could make no final determination as to whether preclearance was in fact required.