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City of Jasper Warned Annexation Plan Could Violate Voting Rights

The contemplated annexation of three predominately white subdivisions by the city of Jasper has drawn the attention of a Washington, D.C.-based voting rights organization.

Vote signs outside early voting locations in Austin on Feb. 23, 2014.

The contemplated annexation of three predominately white subdivisions by the city of Jasper has drawn the attention of a Washington, D.C.-based voting rights organization. The Campaign Legal Center, in a letter, told the southeast Texas city's attorney that the action could violate the Voting Rights Act.

According to the Campaign Legal Center, annexing those three subdivisions would reduce the overall black population by percentage in Jasper and would dilute blacks' voting power in a city council district where black voters have demonstrated the ability to elect their candidate of choice.

"The annexations under consideration will likely produce discriminatory results and thus would appear to dilute black voting strength in the city in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director, in a statement. “We wanted to put the City on notice that the proposed annexations raise serious compliance issues under the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court's misguided decision last year in the Shelby County case, nullifying a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, does not give state and local officials license to adopt discriminatory voting procedures."

Hebert was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last summer to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The effect of the decision was to make it impossible to force some states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against minority voters to submit proposed changes to voting procedures for approval by the federal government.

Hebert noted that another attempt in 1988 by the city of Jasper to annex white neighborhoods was struck down during a pre-clearance review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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