Justice Can Further Improve Its Monitoring of Changes in State/Local Voting Laws

GGD-84-9: Published: Dec 19, 1983. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 1984.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the manner in which the Department of Justice has enforced section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, as amended, and provided a status report on steps taken to correct the problems identified in an earlier GAO report.

The act was designed to prevent practices that deny U.S. citizens belonging to racial or language minorities their right to vote and otherwise participate in the electoral process equally with other citizens. GAO found that Justice has consistently applied the discriminatory purpose or effect analysis in making preclearance, objection, and withdrawal decisions under section 5 of the act, and its decisions have been made in accordance with existing legal standards and established procedures. GAO found that, since the issuance of the prior report, Justice has made numerous changes to improve its administration and enforcement of the act, including: (1) issuing revised guidelines to covered jurisdictions; (2) defining more clearly the role of paralegals; (3) streamlining its management and administrative processes; (4) improving its computerized database and increasing its use in the management process; and (5) performing preclearance reviews in a timely manner. However, GAO believes that areas still exist which require further attention to enhance enforcement of the act and ensure that the rights of language minorities are not hindered.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that all required data are submitted by a jurisdiction to support a proposed voting change, or that a statement be placed in the file detailing why data were not considered necessary to arrive at a decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should modify Justice's procedures for identifying jurisdictions that implement voting changes without submitting them to Justice for prior approval and/or implement changes even though Justice has objected to them. This modification should include, on a selective basis, a review of State and/or local laws when Justice has reason to believe, or when outside organizations have indicated, that jurisdictions may be violating the act. Such an active role by Justice would complement its existing procedures of relying on outside organizations to identify jurisdictions violating the act and enhance the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and the protection of all citizens' right to vote.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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