Thursday, October 1, 2020

Supreme Court Delivers Blow to Voting Rights

On Monday of this week, the Supreme Court delivered a severe blow to the process used by many legal advocates of minority voting rights.  In a 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority, set a new threshold for the use of Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act which allows challenges when the creation of new districts could potentially eliminate the influence of minority voters.

The ruling in Bartlett v. Strickland requires that a group must be the majority population, 50% or greater, in order to use the Section 2 argument thus reducing any communities ability to challenge efforts to draw district lines that dilute their vote.  The Court’s ruling affirmed a suit against the North Carolina State House which created a district that had a 39.4% African American population and had elected a candidate who represented that community.

Civil rights and Hispanic groups are very concerned about the potential this ruling will have on the upcoming redistricting process that will take place following the 2010 Census.

“This decision leaves many minority voters unprotected against electoral systems that would dilute their voting strength.  It contradicts the language and intent of the Voting Rights Act.  Just as Latino voting strength is growing and we are poised to have a greater effect on elections nationwide, this decision undermines the ability of courts to protect against voting systems that would discriminate,” said Nancy Ramirez, Western Regional Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

MALDEF is calling on Congress to counter the potential negative impact of the Supreme Court ruling by amending, if necessary, the Voting Rights Act in order to reinstate the original legislative intent.

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