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Judge Slaps Arizona’s|Voting Act Challenge

PHOENIX (CN) - A federal judge denied Arizona's request to have its constitutional challenges of the Voting Rights Act adjudicated by a three-judge court.

U.S. District Judge John Bates found that upholding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would not "disrupt" Arizona's election procedures.

Section 5 "prohibits certain 'covered' jurisdictions from implementing any change to state election practices or procedures unless and until the jurisdiction demonstrates to federal authorities that the change 'neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.'"

Arizona claimed that its constitutional challenge to Section 5 involved an "even stronger 'clash between federal and state power' than normal preclearance suits do, so there is all the more reason to have a three-judge court hear those challenges," but it failed to ask the court "to preclear any specific election changes or procedures."

Arizona also claimed that its bailout request must be heard by a three-judge court. But even if the state's constitutional challenge succeeds, Bates found, the court "would not simply proceed to apply the bailout statute as currently written," nor would it "surgically excise the bailout requirements that Arizona has not met and apply the remaining criteria." (

The bailout would have allowed Arizona to opt out of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which determines what jurisdictions are "covered" by Section 5.

Arizona sued in D.C. Federal Court in September 2011, claiming that it is being punished "for conditions that predated the enactment" of the 1975 Voting Rights Act, and which were "remedied in 1974 when Arizona provided equal access to the electoral process for limited-English Hispanic voters."

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