Asian American Groups Dismayed by Supreme Court Decision to Gut the Voting Rights Act

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC (Advancing Justice-AAJC) (formerly known as Asian American Justice Center) criticize the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Section 4, the coverage mechanism of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.  Earlier this year, AALDEF and Advancing Justice-AAJC filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 28 Asian American groups to uphold Section 5, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 and is intended to stop voter discrimination before it occurs.  

"We are deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that has protected Asian Americans from discriminatory voting changes for decades," said Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF. "Today's decision eviscerates civil rights. The VRA was enacted to ensure the full and equal participation of all voters of color in the electoral process, and the Supreme Court's rejection of long-standing precedent has taken this nation a step back. The Court completely ignores the discrimination and disenfranchisement that Asian Americans have encountered in voting over the years."

Under Section 5 as reauthorized, certain states and counties with a history of racial discrimination are required to submit, or "preclear," new voting rules and practices to the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal court in Washington, DC for review. This process ensures that the proposed changes do not reduce the ability of minority voters to participate in the electoral process.

In the 5-4 ruling issued by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court found that Section 4, which provides the formula for which jurisdictions are subjected to Section 5 preclearance, is unconstitutional. The Court said that the formula is based on "decades-old data and eradicated practices," despite the extensive record confirming that these areas continued to commit the most egregious acts of voting discrimination. In fact, the Court recognized that "no one doubts" that voting discrimination still exists. Although the Court issued no ruling on Section 5 itself, it invited Congress to draft another coverage formula for Section 5, which is necessary for Section 5 to have practical force.

"Today's decision clearly undercuts congressional decision-making authority," said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Advancing Justice-AAJC. "However, we stand ready to come together around new solutions for a Section 5 coverage mechanism to address the urgent problems that still exist and to protect the real people who hang in the balance with this terrible decision. We are committed to staying the course on voting rights and look forward to working with Congress in a bi-partisan manner to protect those most vulnerable."

Prior to the decision in Shelby County, the Court had upheld the VRA in four consecutive decisions since the law was enacted in 1965.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Jerry Vattamala, AALDEF, 212-966-5932 x209, jvattamala@aaldef.org
Nicole Duran, AAJC, 202-499-7027 x110, comrequests@advancingequality.org

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The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans.  By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice works to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other underserved communities. We comprise Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (www.advancingjustice-aajc.org), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus (www.advancingjustice-alc.org), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago (www.advancingjustice-chicago.org), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles (www.advancingjustice-la.org).