WASHINGTON - Governor Bob Riley attended the oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in a case involving a challenge to the Office of the Governor's power to fill vacancies on county commissions. The case involves a challenge under the Voting Rights Act to Governor Riley's appointment of Juan Chastang to fill a vacancy on the Mobile County Commission.
The Alabama Constitution empowers the Alabama governor to make appointments to vacancies on the Mobile County Commission. The Alabama Supreme Court confirmed this in rulings in 1987 and again in 2005.
Based on these legal rulings, Governor Riley appointed Juan Chastang, an African American, to the Mobile County Commission in 2005. Following that appointment, a group of Democratic Party leaders sued, claiming that Governor Riley's appointment violated the Voting Rights Act.
"The plaintiffs' problem with my appointment of Commissioner Chastang has nothing to do with race. They simply wanted a different African American on the Mobile County Commission," said Governor Riley. "The plaintiffs want to take a federal civil rights statute aimed at preventing racial discrimination in voting practices and use it instead to further a partisan political agenda. I hope the Supreme Court will stop this effort to pervert the aims of the Voting Rights Act.
"If the court were to accept the plaintiffs' argument, then a bureaucrat in Washington could override the requirements of the Alabama Constitution, even when there is not a hint of racial discrimination involved," said Governor Riley. "This is not what was intended when Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act."