(CN) – An Alabama county’s constitutional challenge to portions of the Voting Rights Act cleared a legal hurdle when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., rejected the government’s bid for further discovery.
In its federal lawsuit, Shelby County claimed that the “preclearance” requirements of the Act put undue pressure on its election process, raising costs and delaying at least one election.
The county moved for summary judgment, and the government opposed the motion, asking for more time for discovery.
The government said it needed discovery for three reasons: to determine whether Shelby County has standing, to assess whether the county is eligible to “bail out” from the challenged requirements based on its clean record, and to gather information about the Act’s constitutionality.
“The government has not shown that it needs discovery to assess Shelby County’s standing,” U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote.
He noted that the county never sought to bailout from the preclearance conditions, and the government admitted that neither it nor the court could force the county to accept bailout.
“Thus, further factual investigation on this point would reveal only whether Shelby County is eligible for relief that it explicitly has not sought,” Bates wrote. “The parties have pointed to no authority … that would support discovery under such circumstances.”
The judge concluded the government does not need discovery to decide the constitutionality of the Act, because that question “must rise or fall on the record that Congress created when it extended that Act in 2006.”
Bates gave the government and the intervening parties – a number of individuals and a civil rights organization – until Nov. 15 to file an opposition to the county’s motion for summary judgment.