The Washington Times - June 25, 2013, 06:53AM

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to exempt a Virginia county and town from the requirements of the section.

The Justice Department has agreed to exempt Hanover County and the town of Ashland from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires a handful of mostly southern states to “pre-clear” changes in their election rules, including redistricting plans, with the federal government because of a history of racial discrimination at the polls.

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The agreement comes in the form of a consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which must be approved by the court.

States and localities can apply for a bailout if they demonstrate 10 straight years of non-discrimination in voting-related activities.

Shelby County in Alabama has challenged the constitutionality of Section 5 in a case currently pending before the country’s highest court.