Election Law Blog



  • Preapproval for voting changes is required by some covered states and thousands of local jurisdictions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

  • Please note: In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a portion of the Voting Rights Act indefinitely suspending most preclearance activity. See our Shelby Co. Pagefor more info.
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Section 5 applies to all changes in practices or procedures affecting voting. No voting change can be legally be enforced until a “covered” jurisdiction first obtains approval from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or the Attorney General. This is the key feature of section 5, by requiring “preapproval” or “preclearance,” minority voters will not be adversely affected by discriminatory election changes.  As a preventative measure, preclearance was intended to provide effective oversight over the most egregious offenders of African-American enfranchisement in the 60’s.

The burden is on the submitting jurisdiction to prove that the proposed voting change does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Changes included but are not limited to changes in, precinct locations, election districts, registration procedure, annexations, and election procedures.

The vast majority (over 99%) of preclearance submissions are submitted administratively to the Department of Justice’s Voting Section within the Dept’s Civil Rights Division. The section reviews over 15,000 voting changes annually.

Section 5 Administration Procedures.

Voting Changes Covered by Section 5

Jurisdictions (Previously) Covered by Section 5

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: General Provisions

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