The US Department of Justice announced this morning that it has reached an agreement with Merced County that will let election officials there avoid the process of having to clear many voting decisions with the federal government.
Since the 1970’s the county has been one of a handful in the state required to abide by a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that targets counties with a history of discriminatory election practices. County officials say they got on the list decades ago because of low voter turnout thanks to the population at the former Castle Air Force Base.
Many of the residents were registered to vote in their home districts, but were counted in the total local population, dropping the county’s voter registration numbers below the threshold set by the law.
The law had required Merced County officials to obtain advance clearance from the federal government for any changes in voting qualifications, standards or procedures. The County claims it has spent around $1 million in the past decade complying with the law, and had been seeking an exemption.
The three other California counties that still have to comply with the advance clearance provision of the law at one time all had large military populations. They include Kings County, home to Lemoore Naval Air Station, Monterey County, formerly home to Fort Ord, and Yuba County, home of Beale Air Force Base.