Foreman v. Dallas County, 521 U.S. 979 (1997) (per curiam)

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on appeal from the united states district court for the northern district of texas

No. 96-987. Decided June 27, 1997*

A Texas statute authorizes counties to appoint election judges to supervise voting on election days. Since 1983, Dallas County has changed its appointment procedures several times, always using party-affiliation formulas. Appellants sued the county and others in the Federal District Court, claiming that § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required that the most recent change be precleared. A three-judge court held that preclearance was not required because the county was simply exercising its discretion to adjust the procedure according to party power; concluded that the Justice Department's preclearance of a 1985 submission of Texas' recodified election code operated to preclear the county's use of partisan considerations; denied injunctive relief; and later dismissed appellants' complaint.

Held: The District Court's decision is inconsistent with this Court's precedents. First, an administrative effort to comply with a precleared statute may require separate preclearance because § 5 reaches informal, as well as formal, changes. NAACP v. Hampton County Election Comm'n, 470 U. S. 166, 178. Second, the State's 1985 submission— which indicated that the only change being made to the statute was to the beginning date and duration of the election judges' appointment— was clearly insufficient to put the Justice Department on notice that the State was seeking to preclear using partisan affiliations to select election judges. See, e. g., Young v. Fordice, 520 U. S. 273, 286-287. Because the record is silent as to the county's procedure for appointing election judges on the date on which Texas became a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act, this Court cannot make a final determination whether preclearance is in fact required.

No. 96-987, dismissed and remanded; No. 96-1389, vacated and remanded.

*Together with No. 96-1389, Foreman et al. v. Dallas County, Texas, et al., also on appeal from the same court.


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