The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a group of Kinston residents petition to hear its challenge to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively bringing the local 2 1/2-year legal saga to an end.
The nations highest court agreed to hear a similar case filed by Shelby County, Ala., officials to have Section 5 declared unconstitutional.
Terrence Pell, president of the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights, which is providing legal representation to the Kinston petitioners, said it is not likely that there will be any other legal action involving Kinston regarding Section 5.
The justices did not provide any reasons for their rejection of the Kinston case, titled Nix v. Holder, but Pell suspected it was related to the U.S. Justice Departments decision in early 2012 to reverse its 2009 ruling that nonpartisan elections would disenfranchise black voters.
Justice officials have approved nonpartisan mayoral and City Council races for Kinston, which are expected to be in effect for next years municipal races, and nonpartisan Lenoir County Board of Education races, which are expected to be in effect in 2014.
Pell said the Justice Department could re-reverse its decision in the future if Section 5 still stands and Kinston seeks preclearance of future election changes.
Hopefully this will be the Justice Departments last word with regards to Kinston, but well just have to wait and see, Pell said.
Kinston businessman John Nix, the lead petitioner, made an unsuccessful run for City Council in 2011. He currently plans to run again in 2013.
He said Wednesday he was disappointed to hear the high court would not hear the Kinston case, but glad it would hear the Shelby County case.
Its not like what weve done is for naught, he said. I think these two cases have brought us to where we are today. Its up to the courts from here. But on a very positive note, if we had not filed suit, we would not have nonpartisan elections in 2013.
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