A.G. Schneiderman Applauds Court Decision Upholding Key Voting Rights Act Provision

Schneiderman Filed Brief Against Challenge To Voting Rights Act

Argued Law Provides Important Protections For Minority Voters, Blocks Ongoing Discrimination & Prevents Disenfranchisement

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman applauded a federal court decision today upholding a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that protects voters from disenfranchisement. In Shelby County, AL v. Holder, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected an attempt to strike down the provision of the law that requires certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain pre-approval from the federal government for any changes to election procedures. In December, Attorney General Schneiderman filed a brief in the case, underscoring the important role that the Voting Rights Act plays in protecting minority voters and preventing discrimination.  In today's ruling, the Court observed that "intentional racial discrimination in voting remains so serious and widespread in covered jurisdictions that section 5 preclearance is still needed."

“This is a significant victory for those committed to the twin goals of protecting voting rights and preserving the sanctity of our democracy,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “By upholding a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, today’s decision recognizes the critical role this provision plays in combating and deterring ongoing voting discrimination. As noted in our brief in this important case, the Voting Rights Act remains a necessary tool to support political participation and ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans.”

The constitutional challenge by Shelby County in Alabama takes aim at the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. The preclearance provision requires certain jurisdictions to obtain federal approval before implementing changes to voting procedures to ensure that they were not adopted with a discriminatory purpose, and will not negatively impact minority voter participation.

The preclearance provision applies to Kings, Bronx and New York Counties and has provided important protections for minority voters in New York State.

The plaintiffs argue that Section 5 is no longer required and claim that Congress exceeded its powers when it reauthorized the law in 2006. The plaintiffs also argue that the law is intrusive on states and argue that its protections are no longer necessary in the 16 states where the law applies.  

Attorney General Schneiderman, along with Mississippi and California, provided a stark contrast to those contentions, asserting that Section 5 is an appropriate and carefully tailored tool that helps enforce the guarantees enshrined in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Their friend-of-the-court brief outlines evidence of Section 5’s role in blocking discrimination and highlights the important deterrent effects of the law. The brief also makes clear the good government benefits of the Section 5 preclearance requirement in combating discrimination in voting.

A full copy of the Attorney General’s brief is available here: www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/2011/ShelbyAmicusBrief.pdf

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