Honored Social Butterfly

SCOTUS Weakened Voting Rights Act: Leaders Call For New Protections

Three Years After SCOTUS Case Weakened Voting Rights Act, Leaders Call for New Protections
June 27, 2016, 8:20 AM CDT / Updated June 27, 2016, 8:20 AM CDT
By Chris Fuchs


Three years after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act, voting rights advocates and some elected officials are concerned that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are among those increasingly threatened by voter discrimination.

“This includes complaints of polling locations failing to provide translated ballots that especially hurt those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community — over a third of whom are limited English proficient,” U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the court held in a 5-4 decision that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. That section established which local and state governments, as a result of previous voter discrimination, were required to obtain federal approval before making changes to voting policies or procedures.


Chief Justice John Roberts, in delivering the majority opinion of the court, wrote that the criteria used to decide the jurisdictions covered under Section 4 were outdated. The responsibility for updating them falls on Congress.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion, dated June 25, 2013.


Civil rights advocates say that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has helped to protect AAPI voters against redistricting and changes to voting systems and polling sites. That section requires townships, counties, and states covered under Section 4 to seek federal preclearance for any voting changes they make.


Though still on the books, Section 5 no longer has any effect since the Supreme Court struck down Section 4.


Had the court ruled differently in Shelby County v. Holder, a purge of at least 120,000 voters in Brooklyn, New York, might have been avoided ahead of New York’s April presidential primary, Jerry Vattamala, director of the democracy program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), told NBC News.


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