Department of Justice called to investigate Alabama for possible voting rights violations

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The Washington, D.C.-based Voting Rights Institute (VRI) has called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Daphne, Alabama’s City Council’s March 21 decision to reduce the number of polling places in the city from five to two.

VRI, a project of the American Constitution Society, Campaign Legal Center and Georgetown University Law Center, sent a letter Wednesday to the DOJ after receiving a complaint from African American leader and voter in Daphne, Willie Williams.

According to the Institute, the city’s decision forced residents of one of the only districts with a sizable black population to travel more than two and a half miles away from their current polling place, while it preserved the polling locations for most of the city’s heavily white districts.

“This is exactly the type of voting change that would have had to have been precleared by the Department of Justice before the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Shelby County v. Holder,” said Harry Baumgarten, Legal Fellow with the Voting Rights Institute. “In gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court has opened the door for these potentially discriminatory measures to be passed and implemented throughout the country.”

In addition to reducing the number of polling locations, the city also recently passed a new mid-decade redistricting plan whose impact on the black voting age population in each district is unclear.

“We want fair and honest elections, and what the Daphne City Council has done in reducing polling locations is not fair and it’s not honest,” said Williams. “Voters need convenient polling places and need to be able to vote, and not be confused where to go to vote in their local elections.”

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