CLYDE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - One Allegan County township will no longer have to get federal approval to make changes to its election laws.
Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down that provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The act -- passed in 1965 -- was used to stop voting discrimination. A divided Supreme Court said the law relies on old data that doesn't reflect changes in society.
The only West Michigan community affected by the act was Clyde Township, just south of Fennville.
Clyde Township was added to the list of municipalities monitored by the federal government under the Voting Rights Act in the 1970s because of a large Hispanic population. But unlike other places on the list, there was no history of racial discrimination at the polls there.
Tuesday, residents and local officials said they agreed with the Supreme Court's ruling and say it will save money.
Clyde Township, with a population of only about 2,000, is so small most people head to Fennville to hang out at places like the Hop-N. Owner Lynda Barnes said more than half her customers are Latino, which is a reflection of the township's population.
"I know a lot of families where their parents don't speak English," Barnes said.
She thinks all voters rights should be protected, but not every election decision should need federal approval.
"The federal government doesn't know who's in the area and what we need," she said.
Right now, any change the township makes relating to elections must be approved by the feds and must meet federal requirements.
According to Allegan County Clerk Joyce Watts, that costs the township and extra $600 to $15,000 per election, depending on the size of the ballot. Getting everything approved also takes extra man hours.
She said that money and time was being wasted. Since 1988, only five or six Spanish language ballots have been used.
Watts said she thinks there are enough safeguards in place for elections and that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed.
The only other municipality in Michigan that will be affected by the ruling is Saginaw County's Buena Vista Township, State Elections Director Chris Thomas told the Associated Press. That township was also monitored because of Hispanic registration.
Thomas says the ruling doesn't mean "there will be any major changes" in voting laws and says the Voting Rights Act continues to ban discrimination.
The advance approval requirement has been used mainly in the South to open polling places to black voters. The Supreme Court decided Section 4 of the act can't be enforced unless Congress drafts an up-to-date formula for deciding which states and communities still need federal monitoring.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans will be taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten College Football title. On Friday, fans began gathering in Indianapolis for the big game.
Two Kalamazoo men are in jail after Kalamazoo officers found them with money stolen from Sunny Mart Friday afternoon.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.