Law
4:28 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Why townships in Michigan were subject to the Voting Rights Act

As Rick Pluta reported earlier, two Michigan townships could be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act announced today.

The Voting Rights Act requires that the federal government approve any changes to voting procedures in areas with a history of discrimination.

In Michigan, Buena Vista Township and Clyde Township were both required to submit any proposed changes to their voting rules to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Voting Rights Act covered areas where more than 5% of the population spoke a language other than English. In these areas, bilingual ballots were required. Both Buena Vista Townships and Clyde Townships had Hispanic populations above 5%.

An English-only ballot in these places was considered to be a discriminatory 'device', according to the The New York Times.

Zane McMillin of MLive reports on some of the requirements Clyde Township had to follow:

The township has in the past been burdened by extra costs incurred by the VRA's mandates, like having to print bilingual ballots despite low demand for them. 

Likewise, officials have had to gain federal approval before officially redrawing county commission districts and the like because of the VRA.

Clyde Township's "pre-clearance requirements" are different now, but if Congress passes any new amendments to the Voting Rights Act, other counties in Michigan could be subject to pre-clearance rules.

One factor that could affect several counties in the state is low voter turnout, as suggested by the New York Times.

Though Congress did propose low voter turnout as an amendment to the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it didn't come close to passing. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom