APA Legislators Say Supreme Court Ruling Guts Voting Rights Act

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a key section of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters from racial discrimination at the polls, is unconstitutional.

The 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, strikes down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states and counties that have a history of voting discrimination to get federal permission before changing their voting procedures. The decision leaves it up to Congress to update the formula used to determine which states should be required to get permission to change voting rules, and redraw a new coverage map.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement condemning the Supreme Court’s decision: “The Voting Rights Act has been critical to ensuring every American has access to one of our country’s most fundamental freedoms — the right to vote. I am very disappointed that the Supreme Court assumed that voter registration and participation is no longer as much of a concern for minority voters. I couldn’t disagree more.

“Congress must act quickly to restore the key provisions the Supreme Court struck down and protect every Americans’ right to vote.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said, “Extremely disappointing that SCOTUS struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act today. Despite acknowledging that voting discrimination still exists, the majority nonetheless chose to declare unconstitutional the formula determining where the VRA applies.

“It saddens me that with this decision, millions of voices may no longer be heard at the ballot box. We must now act to ensure that people from all walks of life are able to participate fully in our democracy.”

Following are comments from other CAPAC members.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is incredibly disappointing. For over 45 years, the Voting Rights Act has provided voting protections to millions of Americans who are susceptible to disenfranchisement by prohibiting districts and states from changing their election laws and procedures without getting approval from the federal government.

“I plan to work with my colleagues in Congress to explore every possible remedy to this misguided decision, including passing new standards that would prevent regions from participating in voter suppression, as the court has requested.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii): “This is a disturbing decision and a blow to equality in America. In striking down a critical component of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court has endangered one of the most critical of citizens’ rights: the power to choose the people who represent them in government.

“For decades, the law has protected the right to vote for millions of minority voters across the country, ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to be heard and make a difference. Since being signed by President Lyndon Johnson, the Voting Rights Act has received bipartisan support by Congress, and was recently extended in 2006.

“Now that Congress is tasked with developing a new formula on the eve of an election year, I will do all that I can to protect this fundamental right and ensure that voting opportunities are expanded and not suppressed.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “The Supreme Court’s decision is extremely disappointing. It guts the Voting Rights Act and sets back decades of progress.

“The Voting Rights Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever enacted into law. For nearly 50 years, this vital law has knocked down roadblocks that have interfered with the rights of Americans to cast their ballots, and it has continued to ensure that all Americans can fully exercise their constitutional right to vote.

“Although this decision is a setback, it will not end our efforts to combat discriminatory voting practices. We will keep up the fight.

“I urge Congress to pass legislation that would revamp this law. With today’s attack on voter rights, Congress must act to ensure that all Americans are afforded their right to vote.

“With all the progress we’ve made, we cannot afford to turn back the clock now.”

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