The Center for Law and Social Justice Decries Recent Supreme Court Decision Disabling the Voting Rights Act and Creating Additional Hurdles for Affirmative Action and Employment Discrimination Challenges
Brooklyn, NY - In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court today (June 25, 2013) held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. In one fell swoop, the Court felled Section 4 and the powerful Section 5 which is widely regarded as the heart of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 4 provides the “coverage formula” for the “covered jurisdictions” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The “covered jurisdictions” in Section 5 included certain states and other locales, among them in New York City: the Bronx, New York, and Kings counties. Section 5 required the “covered jurisdictions” to submit any change in voting procedures for preclearance to the Department of Justice, or alternatively to the federal district court in Washington, D.C.
Today, the Supreme Court concluded that the “coverage formula” in Section 4 was inconsistent with current conditions and therefore unconstitutional. The “coverage formula” was based on whether or not a jurisdiction had a voting test in the 1960s or 1970s, or had low voter registration or lower turnout. In so ruling, Court stated, “We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions." However, the decision effectively rendered Section 5 moot.
Esmeralda Simmons, Esq., executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) at Medgar Evers College, CUNY , stated, “Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been the most powerful civil rights law ever enacted in the United States. Right here in New York City, the Center, for over two decades, has used section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to prevent voting rights discrimination against Black, Latino and Asian New Yorkers. That was the beauty of the Voting Rights Act — unlike most civil rights laws where you have to be discriminated against before you can file a claim, under Section 5, changes had to be “pre-cleared” by the federal government or a court before they could be put into practice. The Center will fight to reinvigorate the Voting Rights Act. We will join with others who believe that the protection of voting rights is critical to the defense of democracy in the USA.”
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