Weiser joins coalition of 18 attorneys general defending key provision of the Voting Rights Act before U.S. Supreme Court
AGs argue that provision removes racial barriers to voting without infringing on state sovereignty
Jan. 22, 2021 (DENVER, Colo.) – Attorney General Phil Weiser has joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a ruling on a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits policies and practices that deny or abridge citizens’ right to vote based on their race.
The amicus brief was filed in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, two consolidated cases about Arizona laws that make it harder to vote. The coalition argues that the courts have developed a workable and searching inquiry into whether state laws actually discriminate against voters of color and that the Supreme Court should maintain this standard instead of narrowing it or striking down this critical voting rights legislation.
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 addressed a dark chapter of our nation’s history—the systematic effort to undermine the right to vote of racial and ethnic groups,” Weiser explained. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court took a painful step in the Shelby County case, gutting this Act and undermining its Section 5 preclearance requirement. As the late Justice Ginsburg criticized in dissent, ‘throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.’ Particularly in the wake of that decision, it is critical that the Court uphold the Ninth Circuit’s appropriate interpretation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
The Voting Rights Act prohibits any “qualification or prerequisite to voting” or “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Since 1982, the Voting Rights Act contained a discriminatory-results provision—allowing for election laws or structures to be challenged if they create unequal opportunities for participation in the political process.
Arizona has two laws that were challenged because of discriminatory results: an “out-of-precinct policy,” which rejects ballots if the voter, even inadvertently, cast the ballot outside their designated precinct; and a “ballot-collection” statute that prohibits persons from assisting other voters by collecting their ballots for drop off at a polling center, instead only allowing certain persons to collect and submit another person’s ballot. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that both laws produced a disparate impact on voters of color that created unequal opportunities for political participation, and thus both violated the Voting Rights Act.
The 18-attorney general coalition supporting the ruling filed an amicus brief defending the existing test for assessing violations to the Voting Rights Act.
A copy of the amicus brief is available at: bit.ly/2Nso410.
Attorney General Karl Racine of the District of Columbia led the amicus brief and was joined by the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.