Voting Rights

MALDEF works to eliminate barriers to equitable political representation and the right to vote.

Safeguarding the Voice of Latino Voters

From our first major national victory in a 1970 Supreme Court case that struck a blow at racial gerrymandering and at-large redistricting systems to our most recent victory in a federal Voting Rights Act case that led to a new Kern County, California Board of Supervisors districting plan that will respect Latinos’ right to elect candidates of their choice, MALDEF has a long history of voting rights work. We were the driving force behind the 1975 expansion of the federal Voting Rights Act to include Latinos. And MALDEF won a landmark federal voting rights lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors that led in 1991 to the creation of the first Latino-majority district, after a federal judge ruled that the county had unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts to exclude Latinos from gaining representation.

More recent cases include victories in Texas requiring changes to redistricted election maps to increase Latinos’ ability to elect candidates of their choice. In a 2006 ruling in LULAC v. Perry, a lawsuit brought by MALDEF, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Legislature’s 2003 redistricting plan denied Latino voters the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In 2017, a federal court judge ruled that the City of Pasadena, Texas, illegally and intentionally sought to dilute Latino voting power when it changed the system used to elect its city council members. The ruling marked the first time a jurisdiction was ordered by a court to submit to federal approval of its electoral changes since the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision gutted a key law that determined who was subject to preclearance.

MALDEF led litigation, advocacy, and education to stop the U.S. Commerce Department from adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. MALDEF argued in a federal lawsuit that the decision to add the question was the product of a conspiracy by Donald J. Trump, former White House advisor Steve Bannon, then Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and other Trump administration cabinet members and government officials to decrease participation in the Census by immigrants and communities of color.

Voting Rights


Following the 2020 Presidential election dozens of states began passing bills with provisions that restricted voting rights. Texas was one of those states. The voter suppression legislation known as SB1 imposes new ID requirements on elderly and disabled mail voters, prevents election officials from reigning in unruly partisan poll watchers, limits community-based voter outreach, and makes it more difficult for voters to use the assister of their choice.