POLITICS
03/05/2013 02:03 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2013

Peter Heilemann, Voting Rights Act Litigant In New Hampshire, Has No Standing, Court Rules

WASHINGTON -- A New Hampshire Republican who tried to prevent the Justice Department from allowing the state of New Hampshire to make changes to its voting laws without federal approval did not have standing to intervene in the case, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday.

The Center for Individual Rights tried to intervene in the case on behalf of a 60-year-old New Hampshire resident named Peter Heilemann. Several towns in New Hampshire are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which forces certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to have any changes to their voting laws precleared by either the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges.

While both DOJ and New Hampshire had agreed to allow the state to "bailout" of the requirement, the Center of Individual Rights alleged the state wasn't entitled to an exemption, which the group contends was meant as a ruse to convince the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Section 5 (on which the court heard oral arguments last week). The ability of states covered by Section 5 to "bailout" is an important component of the government's defense of the section's constitutionality.

On Friday, a panel of three judges in D.C. granted New Hampshire its bailout. In a separate order, the judges found that Heilemann had failed to "establish that Section 5 preclearance was designed to protect any threatened concrete interest of his."

Heilemann, they wrote, "does not allege, for example, that the bailout would have any negative impact on his ability to vote, nor does he allege that he is a member of a protected group who might be negatively impacted. Indeed, he does not even allege that he is eligible to vote in one of the covered jurisdictions."

The only injury that Heilemann alleged "is that the Attorney General may not apply the law in the manner that Movant believes it should be applied," the court ruled. "That is simply insufficient to allege an injury for standing purposes."

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