MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Act), 79 Stat. 439, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 1973c (1970 ed., Supp. V),
The city of Sheffield, Ala. (City or Sheffield), was incorporated in 1885 by the Alabama Legislature. As incorporated, the City was governed by a mayor and eight councilmen, two councilmen being elected directly from each of the City's four wards. Sheffield retained this mayor-council government until 1912 when it adopted a system in which three commissioners, elected by the City at large, ran the City. This commission form of government was in effect in Sheffield on November 1, 1964.
Sometime prior to March 20, 1975, Sheffield decided to put to a referendum the question whether the City should return to a mayor-council form of government.
On May 23, the Attorney General formally responded to Sheffield that he did "not interpose an objection to the holding of the referendum," but that "[s]ince voters in the City of Sheffield elected to adopt the mayor-council form of government on May 13, 1975, the change is also subject to the preclearance requirements of Section 5." The Attorney General's letter also stated that in the event the City should elect to seek preclearance of the change from the Attorney General it should submit detailed information concerning the change, including a description of "the aldermanic form of government which existed in 1912 and the method by which it was elected, i. e., the number of aldermen, the terms and qualifications for the mayor and aldermen, whether the aldermen were elected at large or by wards, whether there were numbered post, residency, majority vote or staggered term requirements for the aldermanic seats, and whether single shot voting was prohibited."
Thereafter the City informed the Attorney General that the proposed change would divide the City into four wards of substantially equal population, that each ward would have two council seats, that councilmen from each ward would be elected at large, and that candidates would run for numbered places. Subsequently the City furnished a detailed map showing ward boundaries, data concerning the population distribution by race for each ward, and a history of black candidacy for city and county offices since 1965. The City's submission was completed on May 5, 1976.
On July 6, 1976, the Attorney General notified the City
Notwithstanding the Attorney General's objection, the City scheduled an at-large council election for August 10, 1976. On August 9, the United States instituted this suit in the District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to enforce its § 5 objection. A temporary restraining order was denied. After the election was held, a three-judge court was convened and that court dismissed the suit. 430 F.Supp. 786 (1977). The District Court unanimously held
We first consider whether Congress intended to exclude from § 5 coverage political units, like Sheffield, which have never conducted voter registration. In concluding that Congress did, the District Court noted that § 5 applies to "a [designated] state or a [designated] political subdivision" and construed § 5 to provide that, where a State in its entirety has been designated for coverage, the only political units within it that are subject to § 5 are those that are "political subdivisions" within the meaning of § 14 (c) (2). Because § 14 (c) (2) refers only to counties and to the units of state government that register voters, the District Court held that political units like the City are not subject to the duties imposed by § 5.
There is abundant evidence that the District Court's interpretation of the Act is contrary to the congressional intent. First, and most significantly, the District Court's construction is inconsistent with the Act's structure, makes § 5 coverage depend upon a factor completely irrelevant to the Act's purposes, and thereby permits precisely the kind of circumvention of congressional policy that § 5 was designed to prevent. Second, the language of the Act does not require such a crippling interpretation, but rather is susceptible of a reading that will fully implement the congressional objectives. Finally,
Although this Court has described the workings of the Voting Rights Act in prior cases, see, e. g., Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969); South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966), it is appropriate again to summarize its purposes and structure and the special function of § 5. Congress adopted the Act in 1965 to implement the Fifteenth Amendment and erase the blight of racial discrimination in voting. See 383 U. S., at 308. The core of the Act "is a complex scheme of stringent remedies aimed at areas where voting discrimination has been the most flagrant." Id., at 315. Congress resorted to these stern measures because experience had shown them to be necessary to eradicate the "insidious and pervasive evil of [racial discrimination in voting] that had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country." Id., at 309. Earlier efforts to end this discrimination by facilitating case-by-case litigation had proved ineffective in large part because voting suits had been "unusually onerous to prepare" and "exceedingly slow" to produce results. And even when favorable decisions had been obtained, the affected jurisdictions often "merely switched to discriminatory devices not covered by the federal decrees." See id., at 313-314.
The structure and operation of the Act are relatively simple.
If designated under § 4 (b), a jurisdiction will become subject to the Act's special remedies unless it establishes, in a judicial action, that no "test or device" was used to discriminate on the basis of race in voting. Section 4 (a) is one of the Act's core remedial provisions. Because Congress determined that the continued employment of literacy tests and similar devices in covered areas would perpetuate racial discrimination, it suspended their use in § 4 (a). Just as the actions of every political unit that conducts elections are relevant under § 4 (b), so § 4 (a) imposes a duty on every entity in the covered jurisdictions having power over the electoral process, whether or not the entity registers voters. That § 4 (a) has this geographic reach is clear both from the fact that a "test or device" may be employed by any official with control over any aspect of an election and from § 4 (a)'s provision that its suspension operates "in any [designated] State . . . or in any [designated] political subdivision." (Emphasis supplied.) The congressional objectives plainly required that § 4 (a) apply throughout each designated jurisdiction.
Although § 4 (a) is a potent weapon, Congress recognized that it alone would not ensure an end to racial discrimination in voting in covered areas. In the past, States and the political units within them had responded to federal decrees outlawing discriminatory practices by "resort[ing] to the extraordinary stratagem of contriving new rules of various kinds for the sole purpose of perpetuating voting discrimination. . . ." South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 335. To prevent any future circumvention of constitutional policy, Congress adopted § 5 which provides that whenever a designated State or political subdivision wishes to change its voting laws, it must first demonstrate to a federal instrumentality that the change will be nondiscriminatory. By freezing each covered jurisdiction's election procedures, Congress shifted the advantages of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victims.
The foregoing discussion of the key remedial provisions of the Act belies the District Court's conclusion that § 5 should apply only to counties and to the political units that conduct
The terms of the Act and decisions of this Court clearly indicate that § 5 was not intended to apply only to voting changes occurring within the registration process. Section 5 applies to "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting . . . ." Since the statutory definition of "voting" includes "all action necessary to make a vote effective in any . . . election, including, but not limited to, registration, . . . casting a ballot, and having such ballot counted properly . . . ," 79 Stat. 445, 42 U. S. C. § 1973l (c) (1), § 5's coverage of laws affecting voting is comprehensive.
The Court's decisions over the past 10 years have given § 5 the broad scope suggested by the language of the Act. We first construed it in Allen v. State Board of Elections, supra. There our examination of the Act's objectives and original legislative history led us to interpret § 5 to give it "the
Significantly, in several of these cases, this Court decided that § 5's preclearance requirement applied to cities within designated States without ever inquiring whether the cities conducted voter registration. See Beer v. United States, supra; City of Richmond v. United States, supra; Perkins v.
Because § 5 embodies a judgment that voting changes occurring outside the registration process have the potential to discriminate in voting on the basis of race, it would be irrational for § 5 coverage to turn on whether the political unit enacting or administering the change itself registers voters. But quite apart from the fact that this cramped construction cannot be squared with any reasonable set of objectives, the District Court's interpretation of § 5 would permit the precise evil that § 5 was designed to eliminate. Under it, local political entities like Sheffield would be free to respond to local pressure to limit the political power of minorities and take steps that would, temporarily at least, dilute or entirely defeat the voting rights of minorities, e. g., providing for the appointment of officials who previously had been elected, moving
The terms of the Act do not require such an absurd result. In arriving at its interpretation of § 5, the District Court focused on its language "a State or political subdivision with respect to which the prohibitions set forth in [§ 4 (a)] based upon determinations made under [§ 4 (b)] are in effect." While § 5's failure to use the phrase "in a [designated] State or subdivision" arguably provides a basis for an inference that § 5 was not intended to have the territorial reach of § 4 (a), the actual terms of § 5 suggest that its coverage is to be coterminous with § 4 (a)'s. The coverage provision of § 5 specifically refers to both § 4 (a) and § 4 (b), a fact which itself implies that § 4—not § 14 (c) (2)—is to determine the reach of § 5. And the content of § 5 supports this view. Section 5 provides that it is to apply to the jurisdictions "with respect to which" § 4 (a)'s prohibitions are in effect. Since the States or political subdivisions "with respect to which" § 4 (a)'s duties apply are entire territories and not just county governments or the units of local government that register voters, § 5 must, it would seem, apply territorially as well.
Quite apart from the fact the textual interrelationship between § 4 (a) and § 5 affirmatively suggests that § 5 is to have a territorial reach, the operative language of the statue belies any suggestion that § 14 (c) (2) limits the scope of § 5. Where, as here, a State has been designated for coverage, the meaning of the term "political subdivision" has no operative significance in determining the reach of § 5: the only question is the meaning of "[designated] State." There is no more basis in the statute or its history for treating § 14 (c) (2) as limiting the reach of § 5 than there is for treating it as limiting § 4 (a).
Broader considerations support this construction of § 5's terms. The Act, of course, is designed to implement the Fifteenth
Because the designated jurisdiction in this case is a State, we need not consider the question of how § 5 applies when a political subdivision is the designated entity. But we observe that a similar argument can be made concerning § 5's reference to "[designated] political subdivision," and this fact plainly supports our interpretation of § 5's parallel reference to "[designated] State." The legislative background of § 14 (c) (2)'s definition of "political subdivision" reflects that Congress intended to define "political subdivision" as areas of a nondesignated State,
Finally, the legislative history and other related aids to ascertaining congressional intent leave little doubt but that Congress
What is perhaps a more compelling argument concerning the original, and subsequent, congressional understanding of the scope of § 5 is that the Attorney General has, since the Act was adopted in 1965, interpreted § 5 as requiring all political units in designated jurisdictions to preclear proposed voting changes.
And the legislative history of the 1970 and 1975 re-enactments compellingly supports the conclusion that Congress shared the Attorney General's view. In 1970, Congress was clearly fully aware of this Court's interpretation of § 5 as reaching voter changes other than those affecting the registration process and plainly contemplated that the Act would continue to be so construed. See, e. g., Hearings on H. R. 4249 et al. before Subcommittee No.5 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 1st Sess., 1, 4, 18, 83, 130-131, 133, 147-149, 154-155, 182-184, 402-454 (1969); Hearings on S. 818 et al. before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 1st and 2d Sess., 48, 195-196, 369-370, 397-398, 426-427, 469
The congressional history is even clearer with respect to the 1975 extension, which, of course, is the legislation that controls the case at bar. Both the House and Senate Hearings on the bill reflect that the assumption that the coverage of § 5 was unlimited was widely shared and unchallenged. In addition to the aforementioned testimony of the then Assistant Attorney General, which of course has special significance, numerous witnesses expressed this view, either directly or indirectly. See, e. g., 1975 Senate Hearings 75-76 (in covered jurisdictions § 5 requires preclearance of all voting changes, and objections have been entered concerning every stage of the electoral process), 112-114 (describing preclearance of changes in city of Montgomery, Ala.), 463-464 (stating that if Act were applied to Texas, § 5 would require preclearance of voting changes of cities and school districts, neither of which register voters
Whatever one might think of the other arguments advanced, the legislative background of the 1975 re-enactment is conclusive of the question before us. When a Congress that re-enacts a statute voices its approval of an administrative or other interpretation thereof, Congress is treated as having adopted that interpretation, and this Court is bound thereby. See, e. g., Don E. Williams Co. v. Commissioner, 429 U.S. 569, 576-577 (1977); Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 414 n. 8 (1975); H. Hart & A. Sacks, The Legal Process: Basic Problems in the Making and Application of Law 1404 (tent. ed. 1958); cf. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, 401 U.S. 321, 336 n. 7 (1971); Girouard v. United
In short, the legislative background of the enactment and re-enactments compels the conclusion that, as the purposes of the Act and its terms suggest, § 5 of the Act covers all political units within designated jurisdictions like Alabama. Accordingly, we hold that the District Court erred in concluding that § 5 does not apply to Sheffield.
Having decided that Sheffield is subject to § 5, we must consider whether the District Court properly concluded that the Attorney General's failure to object to the holding of the referendum constituted clearance under § 5 of the method of electing city councilmen under the new government. Only a
It bears re-emphasizing at the outset that the purpose of § 5 is to establish procedures in which voting changes can be scrutinized by a federal instrumentality before they become effective. The basic mechanism for preclearance is a declaratory judgment proceeding in the District Court for the District of Columbia, but the Act, of course, establishes an alternative procedure of submission to the Attorney General to give "covered State[s] a rapid method of rendering a new state election law enforceable." Allen v. State Board of Education, 393 U. S., at 549. Under the statute's terms, the Attorney General will be treated as having approved a voting change if such change "has been submitted . . . to [him] and [he] has not interposed an objection within sixty days after such submission" or if the change has been submitted and "the Attorney General has affirmatively indicated that such objection will not be made." 42 U. S. C. § 1973c (1970 ed., Supp. V) (emphasis supplied). See also Georgia v. United States, 411 U. S., at 540. While the Act does provide that inaction by the Attorney General may, under certain circumstances, constitute federal preclearance of a change, the purposes of the Act would plainly be subverted if the Attorney General could ever be deemed to have approved a voting change when the proposal was neither properly submitted nor in fact evaluated by him. But the District Court held precisely that.
First, it is clear on this record—and the District Court did not find otherwise—that Sheffield did not, in its March 20, 1975, letter, submit to the Attorney General a request for preclearance of the change in the City's form of government. Sheffield's letter sought approval only for the holding of the referendum.
And there is no question but that the Attorney General did not intend to approve the proposed change to a mayor-council government and could not be understood as having done so. When the Attorney General wrote the City and told it that he had decided not to interpose an objection to the holding of the referendum, he warned that the change itself required prior federal scrutiny, and he apprised it of the information it should supply if it wished to attempt to preclear the change in government with the Attorney General, rather than in federal district court.
Under the circumstances, it is irrelevant that the Attorney General might have been on notice that, if the referendum passed, Sheffield would have been required by state law to adopt an at-large system of councilmanic elections.
Since we conclude that Sheffield is covered by § 5 of the Act and that the Attorney General did not clear the City's decision to adopt a system of government in which councilmen are elected at large, the judgment of the District Court is
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring.
Although I find this case to be closer than much of the language of the Court's opinion would indicate, I nevertheless join that opinion. I do so because I feel that whatever
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
Given the Court's reading of the Voting Rights Act in prior decisions, and particularly in Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969), and Perkins v. Matthews, 400 U.S. 379 (1971), I concur in the judgment of the Court. In addition, I concur in Part III of the Court's opinion.
Although my reservations as to the constitutionality of the Act have not abated,
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST join, dissenting.
The principal question presented by this case is whether the city of Sheffield, Ala., is covered by § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Briefly stated, § 5 provides that whenever a State or a political subdivision, designated pursuant to § 4, seeks to change a voting practice, it must obtain clearance for that change from either the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or the Attorney General of the United States.
Since Alabama is a designated State under § 4, "each and every political subdivision within that State" is covered by § 5. See H. R. Rep. No. 439, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., 25 (1965). This does not, however, mean that the city of Sheffield is a "political subdivision" of Alabama covered by § 5. For the Act specifically defines "political subdivision," and that definition does not even arguably include an entity such as Sheffield.
Section 14 (c) (2) of the Act provides:
Sheffield is not a county or a parish, and it does not conduct registration for voting. Consequently, it is not a "political subdivision."
The legislative history of § 14 (c) (2) demonstrates that the term "political subdivision" was defined for the specific purpose of limiting the coverage of the Act. Because the term had not been defined in the bill as originally drafted, Senator Ervin, among others, recognized that it might be read to encompass minor, local governmental units. It was to allay this concern that the definition was included in the Act.
See also Hearings on H. R. 6400 before Subcommittee No. 5 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., 21 (1965) (1965 House Hearings).
Later, during the Senate debate on the Voting Rights Act, Senator Ervin referred to the above dialogue with Attorney General Katzenbach and stated, without contradiction, that the term "political subdivision" had been defined to avoid a construction of the Act that would "confer jurisdiction upon the Federal Government to intervene in every ward of every city and town covered by the bill." 111 Cong. Rec. 9270 (1965). The Senate Report on the Voting Rights Act made the same point equally bluntly:
The remaining question is whether a political unit that does not register voters may be regarded as the "State," as that term is used in § 5. If there were no contrary legislative history, it might be reasonable to treat the action of entities such as Sheffield, which are within the jurisdiction of a covered State, as "state action," just as such governmental action would be regarded as state action in a constitutional sense. However, such an interpretation of the word "State" would extend the reach of the statute to the same kind of purely local matters that Congress intended to exclude by defining the term "political subdivision."
As is apparent from the comments of Senator Ervin, quoted supra, there was congressional concern over whether the Act would extend to governmental units below the county level. That concern was repeatedly expressed and was specifically addressed in § 14 (c) (2). Unquestionably, as the Court recognizes, ante, at 128-129, that section protects small political units, such as school boards, from being separately designated for coverage under § 4 (b). The concerns which motivated this exclusion from § 4 (b) apply equally to § 5.
First, a preclearance requirement limited to governmental units engaged in the registration process would be in accord with the fact that the Act was principally concerned with literacy tests and other devices which were being used to prevent black citizens from registering to vote. As Attorney General Katzenbach repeatedly emphasized, the "bill really is aimed at getting people registered." See 1965 House Hearings 21.
Obviously, this same argument does not apply to most townships, school boards, and the numerous other small, local units involved in the political process. Whether or not it would be "fair" to make these smaller political units argue their cases only in Washington, D. C., the drafters and supporters of the Act gave assurances that § 5 was not so intended. A broad definition of "State" would nullify those assurances just as surely as a loose interpretation of "political subdivision."
Finally, the logistical and administrative problems inherent in reviewing all voting changes of all political units strongly suggest that Congress placed limits on the preclearance requirement. Statistics show that the Attorney General's staff is now processing requests for voting changes at the rate of over 1,000 per year.
Neither the "contemporaneous" construction of the Act by the Attorney General nor the subsequent amendments of § 5 by Congress, in my judgment, undermine the validity of this reading of the section. The Court asserts that the "Attorney General has, since the Act was adopted in 1965, interpreted § 5 as requiring all political units in designated jurisdictions to preclear proposed voting changes." Ante, at 131. The unambiguous historical evidence is to the contrary.
The Department of Justice did not adopt regulations implementing § 5's preclearance provisions until September 1971, six years after the passage of the Act and nearly two years after this Court's decision in Allen. 36 Fed. Reg. 18186; see Georgia v. United States, 411 U.S. 526. And it was not until the Allen decision that the Department even attempted
Nor, in my judgment, are the subsequent amendments of the Act in 1970 and 1975 reliable guides to what Congress intended in 1965 when it drafted the relevant statutory language. The 1970 and 1975 extensions of the Act did not change the operative language in § 5 or alter the definition of the term "political subdivision." As I suggested a few years ago, "[a]n interpretation of a provision in [a] controversial and integrated statute . . . cannot fairly be predicated on unexplained inaction by different Congresses in subsequent years." Hodgson v. Lodge 851, Int'l Assn. of Mach. & Aerospace Workers, 454 F.2d 545, 562 (CA7 1971) (dissenting opinion).
James E. Ross filed a brief for Westheimer Independent School District as amicus curiae.
"Whenever a State or political subdivision with respect to which the prohibitions set forth in section 1973b (a) of this title [§ 4 (a) of the Act, 79 Stat. 438, as amended], based upon determinations made under the first sentence of section 1973b (b) of this title [§ 4 (b) of the Act, 79 Stat. 438, as amended], are in effect shall enact or seek to administer any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting different from that in force or effect on November 1, 1964, . . . such State or subdivision may institute an action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for a declaratory judgment that such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, . . . and unless and until the court enters such judgment no person shall be denied the right to vote for failure to comply with such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure: Provided, That such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure may be enforced without such proceeding if the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure has been submitted by the chief legal officer or other appropriate official of such State or subdivision to the Attorney General and the Attorney General has not interposed an objection within sixty days after such submission, or upon good cause shown, to facilitate an expedited approval within sixty days after such submission, the Attorney General has affirmatively indicated that such objection will not be made. . . ."
"To assure that the right of citi[z]ens of the United States to vote is not denied or abridged on account of race or color, no citizen shall be denied the right to vote in any Federal, State, or local election because of his failure to comply with any test or device in any State with respect to which the determinations have been made under the first two sentences of subsection (b) of this section or in any political subdivision with respect to which such determinations have been made as a separate unit, unless the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in an action for a declaratory judgment brought by such State or subdivision against the United States has determined that no such test or device has been used during the seventeen years preceding the filing of the action for the purpose or with the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color . . . ."
"The provisions of subsection (a) of this section [§ 4 (a)] shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a State which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1964, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 per centum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1, 1964, or that less than 50 per centum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November 1964."
"Where an entire State falls within . . . subsection [4 (b)] so does each and every political subdivision within that State." H. R. Rep. No. 439, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., 25 (1965); see S. Rep. No. 162, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 3, p. 23 (1965).
Of course, the District Court's assumption to the contrary notwithstanding, this statement does not establish that the only entities in designated States which are subject to § 5 are those that are either counties or the units that register voters. Indeed, since this statement also pertains to the scope of § 4 (a), which clearly applies to all political units within covered jurisdictions, it is difficult to see how it can be relied upon to support a crippling interpretation of § 5.
I agree with much of what MR. JUSTICE STEVENS says in dissent, but unless the Court is willing to overrule Allen and its progeny—a step it has refrained from taking—I view those decisions as foreshadowing if not compelling the Court's judgment today. I nevertheless record my total agreement with MR. JUSTICE STEVENS' view of the Act's preclearance requirement, post, at 141.
"Whenever a State or political subdivision . . . shall enact or seek to administer any voting qualification . . . ." (Emphasis added.)
Since laws are enacted and administered by political units, rather than geographic territories, the term necessarily has the former meaning as it is used in this section.
This conclusion is confirmed by other language in § 5: "[S]uch State or subdivision may institute an action . . . Provided, That such qualification. . . may be enforced . . . if . . . submitted by the chief legal officer or other appropriate official of such State or subdivision . . . ." Geographic territories do not institute actions or employ legal officers; but political units do.
"It is irrelevant that the coverage formula excludes certain localities which do not employ voting tests and devices but for which there is evidence of voting discrimination by other means. Congress had learned that widespread and persistent discrimination in voting during recent years has typically entailed the misuse of tests and devices, and this was the evil for which the new remedies were specifically designed. At the same time, through §§ 3, 6 (a), and 13 (b) of the Act, Congress strengthened existing remedies for voting discrimination in other areas of the country. Legislation need not deal with all phases of a problem in the same way, so long as the distinctions drawn have some basis in practical experience." South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 330-331.
"The CHAIRMAN. The bill also refers to `political subdivisions.' How far down the political scale does that go?
"Mr. KATZENBACH. I believe that the term `political subdivision' used in this bill . . . really is aimed at getting people registered.
"The CHAIRMAN. For example, in New York. . . . I take it that an election district would be deemed a political subdivision?
"MR. KATZENBACH. I think that is possible, Mr. Chairman, but frankly, you are more familiar with how registration is accomplished in New York than I am. I know how it is accomplished or not accomplished in Alabama.
"The CHAIRMAN. What would be the lowest possible political unit in the scale?
"Mr. KATZENBACH. What is the area in which registration is done in New York? I am not familiar with that, Mr. Chairman." 1965 House Hearings 21.
Similar testimony was referred to by the Court in Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544, 564.
The fact that Allen broadly construed the Act to apply to gerrymandering and other techniques which "dilute" the weight of some votes cannot obscure the fact that voter registration was the central concern of the Act when it was passed in 1965. Indeed, Allen's creative interpretation of the statute was so dramatic that it was given only prospective application. See id., at 572.