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Hanover County is getting closer to possible freedom from U.S. Department of Justice election pre-clearance requirements.
Currently, Hanover must obtain permission from DOJ for every proposed change to a voting precinct. This has been the case since the 1960s, when Virginia resisted racial integration.
County officials feel this is no longer necessary. The Board of Supervisors last summer initiated a process to seek exemption from these requirements.
Teri Smithson, general registrar for Hanover, gave the board a brief update at its Jan. 23 meeting. She said her office was finalizing the data that needs to be submitted to DOJ to make this petition. The information should be in the hands of DOJ and Hanover’s Washington, D.C.-area legal representation by the end of the month.
DOJ will take about 30 days to process the petition, and an investigation will follow. This could involve DOJ officials visiting Hanover to interview locals. Then the County will have 30 days to hold a public hearing and petition the court. Ultimately, a three-judge panel will hear the petition.
“We’re hoping to have everything finalized by July,” Smithson said.
Previously stated reasons for seeking this exemption include saving taxpayer money, providing greater flexibility and efficiency when making routine voting changes, and taking an opportunity to demonstrate that Hanover now has a history of fair voting practices.
If the judges grant the exemption, the protections included within the Voting Rights Act would still apply.