Hanover County will no longer have to report to the Department of Justice for anything regarding voting.
The county received exemption from the Voting Rights Act promptly before the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the act, which applies to localities and states with a history of discrimination at the polls.
Two years ago during the election of 2011, the county ran into a few voting-related problems. The first was handicap accessibility for voters. The second was a polling location that was out of its district.
For instance, the polling place at Stonewall Jackson Middle School is not handicap accessible. Mechanicsville district supervisor Canova Peterson wanted to move it to a library close by that would make it easier for voters in wheelchairs. Because of the act, Peterson said he could not immediately take action without the DOJ’s approval.
Peterson, a supporter of the exemption, said he initiated the process along with county registrar Teri Smithson.
In order to complete the process, the county had to get permission from the DOJ and go through an intensive investigation process. The county had to prove that all of their citizens were treated fairly and equally during elections.
Now that the county has been approved as of June 24, Peterson said, “We don’t have to report to mama.”
Since the 1960s, Hanover has had to get permission to move any voting precincts due to its opposition to racial integration.
Passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was established to prevent discriminatory voting that was prevalent in southern states. The law made it illegal for states to enact qualifications based on color or race to vote. To make sure this act was enforced, states had to report to the DOJ before any changes affecting voting could be made.
There has been some pushback from the NAACP, the Democratic Party and President Obama regarding this issue.
Those in opposition feel that minorities will not be as fairly represented at the polls.
As for Hanover, Peterson said that the approval “speaks volumes of praise for the citizens of Hanover County for making sure everyone has proper rights and is represented.”
Part of the process requires the DOJ interview not only county employees but also citizens.
“I’m very proud of all of [Hanover’s] citizens. They stood up and acted right so the DOJ could see how well we treat our citizens,” Peterson said.
The exemption will go into full effect once the judge signs Hanover off this week.