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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Multi-state coalition argues against voting rights-related constitutional challenge

By Bryan Cohen | Feb 4, 2013

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently announced the filing of a multi-state brief with Mississippi, California and North Carolina to defend a core provision of the Voting Rights Act.

The multi-state brief in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should reject a constitutional challenge to the Voting Rights Act. The brief said that the law plays an important role in deterring voter discrimination.

"The Voting Rights Act stands as one of Congress's greatest legislative achievements and its protections remain vital to ensuring that all voters have equal access to the democratic process," Schneiderman said. "The preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act helps eliminate discriminatory voting laws and practices before they can take root. Most importantly, the benefits afforded by the law far outweigh the minimal burden on covered jurisdictions. While we have seen progress, the protections afforded by the Voting Rights Act clearly remain necessary in the states where the law applies."

The constitutional challenge brought by Shelby County, Ala., targets the section five preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. The provision requires that certain jurisdictions submit new voting changes for federal review to ensure that they are not adopted with a discriminatory purpose that will negatively impact the participation of minorities. The constitutional challenge argues that section five is no longer needed and that Congress exceeded its powers when it reauthorized the law in 2006. Shelby County also argues that the law is intrusive to states and that its protections are no longer required in the 16 states where the law applies.

The multi-state brief argues that section five is an appropriate exercise of Congressional power that is carefully tailored to parts of the country where the law's protections are the most necessary.

"The section five preclearance process has helped bring about tremendous progress in the covered jurisdictions and continues to be a vital mechanism to assist amici states in working to achieve the equality in opportunities for political participation that is a foundational principle of our democracy," the brief said.

In 2006, Congress voted 98-0 in the Senate to renew the law after extensive hearings to determine if the law's requirements remained necessary.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Feb. 27.

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