WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 27, 2013) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 of the VRA requires that all or part of 16 states with a history of discrimination in voting, submit voting changes for federal approval before they can be implemented.
Section 5 requires covered jurisdictions to show that voting changes are not discriminatory. Section 5 was reauthorized by Congress with strong bipartisan support in 2006, with over 15,000 pages of documentation and testimony in the Congressional record.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on Wednesday signed on to an Amicus Brief in support of Section 5 with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus which was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month. CAPAC members released the following statements regarding the Shelby County v. Holder case, which was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair: “Section five is one of the most effective pieces of civil rights legislation ever written because it stops voter discrimination before it can begin. As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am proud to stand here with fellow Members of Congress to fight for an America that welcomes all voices. The Supreme Court must protect the right of every citizen to vote, not just for those casting ballots in our day, but for future generations and elections still to come.”
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), CAPAC Civil Rights Taskforce Chair: “Invalidating Section 5 will essentially allow states and localities, who have a recorded history of discrimination, to implement any discriminatory voter schemes and benefit from those schemes until the victims of discrimination raise the money for a lawsuit to overturn the scheme. Victims who are unable to afford expensive litigation cannot have their rights protected if Section 5 is repealed. Those states and areas covered by Section 5 were not chosen randomly – they were selected ‘the old fashion way: they earned it’ with a history of poll taxes, literacy tests, gerrymandered districts and other schemes. It is my hope that that the Court will uphold Section 5.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “The right to vote is the most basic tenet of our democracy. We should be doing everything in our power to expand this right, not restrict it. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act stands at the very core of protecting ballot access for minorities, the elderly, and young people who have been, and continue to be, historically disenfranchised and shortchanged by inequitable systems. Without this necessary protection, communities around the country will be disenfranchised and individual civil liberties will be eviscerated. Instead of road blocking citizenship rights, for which many have fought and died, it is my hope that the Court will stand up for those without a voice. This is, after all, the fundamental principle behind the Voting Rights Act.”
Congressman Ami Bera (CA-07): “The right to vote is absolutely fundamental to our democracy and should be embraced by people from all backgrounds. We must work to ensure that everyone who’s eligible to vote can, and that every vote counts. Today, the Supreme Court must choose to uphold the Voting Rights Act to secure our country’s promise of equality and justice and reinforce the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (AS): “At its core, the Shelby County v. Holder case questions not only the relevance of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but also the prevalence of racism in the U.S. There is no question, however, that racism is still alive in many parts of our country, though it has taken on a different face than the 1960s. Even as recent as the 2012 election, we have been reminded of the continuing need for Section 5 to protect minorities from political racism through discriminatory voting practices. Congress’ decision to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006 sent a clear message: in order to move forward as a Nation, we must uphold this historic law which continues to protect every American’s right to vote.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13): “Even now, in 2013, discrimination is still haunting us. It’s not in the form of a poll tax, but it’s in the cost of waiting in line for 7, 8, 9 hours just to vote. We should be making it easier for participation in this democratic process, not harder. As our great Drum Major for Justice, Dr. King once said: “Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” Truly, our votes are the bedrock of democracy. We will not bow to voter suppression. These are our rights. We won’t budge.”
Congressman Al Green (TX-09): “This is more than a matter of race, it’s a threat which strikes at the core of our democracy. The Voting Rights Act is absolutely necessary for the preservation of every citizen’s right to have their voice heard unimpeded. This challenge to the Voting Rights Act endangers the progress made since 1965, and threatens the important legacy of the Civil Rights and Human Rights Movements. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Today our Supreme Court can make real this great and noble ideal by upholding the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and thereby bend the arc of the moral universe toward the justice of a more perfect Union, as proclaimed in our Constitution.”
Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06): “One of our government’s most important roles is to ensure the rights of all American citizens, regardless of age, race, gender or income. This is especially true with protecting a citizen’s ability to vote, the cornerstone of our democracy and a fundamental right guaranteed all Americans. We must continue to uphold the Voting Rights Act in its entirety to protect citizens from discriminatory election procedures. Given the recent assault on voting rights by some state legislatures, there is a clear need for continued constitutional safeguards that guarantee every citizen the right to vote.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06): “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 continues to be one of the single most important pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress. Its protections, particularly Section 5, have prevented discriminatory voting practices across our country for the past 48 years. But our work is far from over. While our nation is more diverse today that at any point in our country’s history, there are still roadblocks that interfere with people’s right to cast their ballots. We must do all we can to combat discriminatory voting practices and ensure that all Americans can fully exercise their constitutional right to vote, and Section 5 remains a vital part of that effort.”
Congressman Joe Crowley (NY-14): “For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act has served as one of the fundamental pillars of our nation’s democracy. Yet, today, the Supreme Court will begin hearing a case that could overturn the critical protections included in this law. Last year we saw a concerted effort to make it harder for Americans to vote. Those who were involved claimed they were fighting ‘voter fraud’, even though there was zero evidence of any fraud. It’s a shame that so much time, energy and money is wasted on a non-existent problem, especially when the fraud that actually exists is the construction of false barriers at the polls. Real fraud is forcing people to choose between getting a paycheck or waiting in line all day to vote. Real fraud is telling communities that in order to exercise their right to vote, they need a form of identification they may not even have. Real fraud is the disrespect these actions show to each and every American. The Court should reject this challenge to Section 5, which helps guarantee the civil liberties and rights of millions of voters. We can’t afford to turn back the clock on voter rights.”
Congressman Gerry Connolly (VA-11): “At a time when voting rights are under assault, we must do more, not less, to protect and expand the franchise of every voter. Rolling back Section 5 of the historic Voting Rights Act is a step in the wrong direction and I urge the Supreme Court to uphold this critical protection.”
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (OH-11): “I am proud to stand with my colleagues today to send a clear message to the public and to the Court that the right to vote is not a matter of race, entitlement or partisanship. It is a fundamental right guaranteed to every citizen of this country and it must be protected. The Congressional Black Caucus will continue to stand with everyone who opposes efforts to undermine the Constitution and disenfranchise this country’s citizens. More than a century ago, this fight for equality and justice under the law began and today it’s clear it is far from over.”
Congressman Charles B. Rangel (NY-13): “Four decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many Americans are once again in danger of being disenfranchised. I remember marching from Selma to Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights leaders to stand up for everyone’s rights to vote and to pursue the American Dream. What started out as a march turned into a movement that ultimately cemented our fundamental right to vote, which we must continue to invoke in our present day. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of the most vital pieces of legislation in our democracy. Every American, regardless of race, gender, faith or wealth, must be given the opportunity to participate in the democratic franchise. I am proud to stand with my Colleagues in defense of the Voting Rights Act, and am confident that our nation’s highest Court would do the right thing and uphold these sacred rights.”