Report released by Advancing Justice | AAJC, MALDEF, and NALEO Educational Fund presents new legal approach to issues arising from 2013 Supreme Court decision.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Civil rights organizations issued a new report that explains the need for restoring and strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) by addressing issues created by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that undercut a key provision of the act.

Monday’s report, authored by Advancing Justice | AAJC (Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC), MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, calls for restoring a practice-based geographic coverage formula for Section 5, and creating a complementary provision that targets the known practices policymakers have repeatedly used to silence growing minority electorates.

Section 5 of the VRA was instrumental in furthering the act’s goals by requiring that certain state and local jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices that targeted racial, ethnic, and language minorities submit proposed changes of elections to federal authorities for approval. The 2013 Shelby County, AL v. Holder decision, however, effectively invalidated Section 5 by striking down the coverage formula and lifting the pre-clearance requirement, allowing jurisdictions to adopt a number of disrciminatory tactics that target minority vote

“Protecting the voting rights of everyone nationwide requires a robust reinstatement of pre-clearance, an efficient and effective alternative dispute resolution process to block rights violations before their effects are irreparable” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “Pre-clearance should focus on both serial vote suppressors — jurisdictions with long histories of electoral discrimination — as well as copycat vote suppressors — jurisdictions employing electoral practices with a long history of being used to prevent growing minority communities from gaining political power.”

“Over the past five years we have seen a marked increase in instances of voter suppression aimed at reducing the electoral influence of minorities, and Latino voters in particular” said Arturo Vargas, Chief Executive Officer of NALEO Educational Fund. “As we work to ensure Congress moves the Voting Rights Advancement Act forward, this report provides clearly defined guidelines for identifying and combating attacks on the voting rights of our communities.”

“As the Asian American population continues to grow across America, it is our responsibility to fight against attempts to restrict access to the ballot box, especially in new geographic areas where there’s increased efforts to silence our political voice,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Advancing Justice | AAJC. “A legislative fix to the erroneous Shelby decision must include a mechanism, such as the practice-based preclearance found in the Voting Rights Advancement Act, to help protect emerging communities from future voter suppression tactics.”

The report entitled “Practice-Based Preclearance: Protecting Against Tactics Persistently Used to Silence Minority Communities’ Votes” identifies specific practices that would be subject to pre-clearance if adopted in a diverse state or political subdivision, including:

  • Method of Election:  Where voters of color have overcome first-generation barriers to the ballot, manipulation of elections to ensure majority domination has become popular.  Numerous lawmakers in places with growing and mobilizing minority communities have adopted at-large and multimember districts in which white majorities can outvote those cohesive minority communities.
  • Redistricting:  Persistently high rates of residential segregation and racially polarized voting have made it possible for people with discriminatory motives to use the redistricting process to deny political power to emerging or sizeable minority populations.
  • Annexations or Deannexations: Annexations or deannexations dilute minority political power by selectively altering the racial and ethnic makeup of a jurisdiction’s electorate.
  • Identification and Proof of Citizenship Requirements: Over the past twenty years, in places where African American voters have mobilized in historic numbers, and communities of color with immigrant origins are making a mark as patriotic naturalized citizens and first and second generation Americans, restrictive identification requirements have become an increasingly popular intervention
  • Polling Place Closures and Realignments: Residential segregation has made racially motivated manipulation of polling place locations an effective tool for discouraging voters of color.

Read the report HERE