NAMUDNO Is Over SCOTUSBlog Reports

November 5th, 2009

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog Reports NAMUDNO case is over

A three-judge U.S. District Court this week approved an agreement to end a broad constitutional challenge to the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 — a challenge that at one time had appeared likely to succeed in the Supreme Court.  By attaching their signatures to a proposed consent decree on Tuesday, the three judges put into effect an agreement that allows a small Texas utility district to come out from under Section 5 coverage, and scuttles, for now at least, its constitutional arguments against that provision.  No objections to the agreement had been filed since it was put before the District Court Oct. 7.

A post discussing the consent agreement is here. In U.S. District Court, the case is Northwest Austin Municpal Utility District No. One v. Holder (06-1384).

Section 5 requires state and local government units that had a priority history of racial discriminaton in voting to get clearance in Washington to make any changes in their election laws or procedures.  The Texas utility district (sometimes known as “NAMUDNO,” took its constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court last Term; the Court decided it by giving a broader reading to the provision that allows some government units to “bail out” from Section 5.  That is what NAMUDNO has now been allowed to do, after government findings that it has not discriminated in voting at least for the past ten years.

The three-judge Court was composed of Circuit Judge David S. Tatel and District Judges Paul L. Friedman and Emmet G. Sullivan.   That Court had rejected the constitutional challenge to Section 5; the case then went on to the Supreme Court, ending without a constitutional ruling.

I suppose we will have to wait until the Supreme Court actually takes on this issue, rather than punting it on avoidance grounds.