Questions raised as to whether preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would be necessary on an individual county basis for the upcoming July 31, 2012, T-SPLOST referenda have been put to rest.
The Department of Justice in 2010 had given preclearance for the statewide T-SPLOST law, but because the state law created twelve regions which would hold independent referenda the state was unable to ask for and the Department of Justice was unable to give preclearance to each of the regions.
In order to get closure on the matter, Attorney General Olens submitted a request for expedited review of the local T-SPLOST elections on behalf of all 159 counties in Georgia to DOJ on May 20, 2012. Cities did not need to have a similar request because the T-SPLOST referenda are county-wide elections. On June 5, 2012, the Chief of the Voting Rights Division of the Department of Justice issued a response to the Attorney General’s request stating that the Department of Justice did not interpose any objection to the local referenda to be held in accordance with the TSPLOST general law. As a result, the Attorney General’s office was able to affirm that preclearance of the T-SPLOST referenda is not required.
The procedures in the T-SPLOST law must be adhered to for the Department of Justice clearance to remain effective and any alteration in things such as dates of ballot language could result in a reexamination of that local election and could subject the election to an enforcement action by DOJ. Again, because these elections are county-wide elections, cities did not need to worry about preclearance, and now, neither do the counties.