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Arizona Sues Federal Government Over Voting Rights Act

Arizona is once again challenging the authority of the federal government. This time the state's attorney general is suing the feds to get out from under the Voting Rights Act, which requires Arizona to get prior approval before changing election rules and maps.

NPR's Carrie Johnson filed this report:

Tom Horne, the top elected lawyer in Arizona, says the landmark 1965 voting rights law is out of date and forces the state to bend to the whim of the federal Justice Department.

Arizona says the law is unconstitutional.

The law requires Arizona and several other states with a history of discriminating against minority voters to get permission from federal authorities before making changes to its congressional districts.

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Voting Rights Act plays a "vital role" in ensuring every American has a right to cast a ballot.

Holder says the Justice Department will "vigorously defend" the law in court.

The Tucson Sentinelreports Horne said the portions of the Voting Rights Act that require preclearance by the federal government are "either archaic, not based in fact, or subject to completely subjective enforcement based on the whim of federal authorities."

"Arizona has been subjected to enforcement actions for problems that were either corrected nearly 40 years ago and have not been repeated, or penalized for alleged violations that have no basis in the Constitution. That needs to stop," said Horne.

Holder said the preclearance requirement was "reauthorized by Congress in 2006 with overwhelming and bipartisan support."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.