- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prince William County has been granted an exemption from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, becoming the largest local jurisdiction in the nation to receive a “bailout” from the provisions of the act after demonstrating 10 years of unbiased voting practices.

The act requires that all or parts of 16 mostly Southern states “pre-clear” any voting changes, including redistricting, with the U.S. Department of Justice because of a history of discrimination at the polls.

Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, who officially launched his bid for lieutenant governor Wednesday, called the approval “a major milestone in our county’s history.”

“This shows how far we have come in the past 45 years,” he said. “We protect the voting rights of all U.S. citizens regardless of race, religious preference or ethnicity. And this demonstrates our commitment to those essential rights of our citizens.”

The act requires states and localities to check any voting changes with the federal government, no matter how seemingly innocuous.

For example, Prince William officials had to ask permission to close the county registrar’s office for one day so renovations could be done on the building, according to assistant county attorney Jeffrey Notz.

Officials also had to seek permission to change the name of a street in front of a high school where polling is conducted.

More than 15 other jurisidictions in Virginia have also been granted a bailout.

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