Meredith Curtis, 410-889-8550 ext 115, firstname.lastname@example.org, ACLU of MD
John Comer, 443-525-0578, John@CommunitiesUnite.org, Communities United
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, 410-303-7954, email@example.com, Common Cause MD
ANNAPOLIS - Advocates who worked to pass significant voter expansion legislation in Maryland this past session condemned today the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, which found that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. In this decision, the Supreme Court removed a key provision to the Voting Rights Act. Advocates called the decision "a serious blow to a pillar of our democracy."
"We know that in many places across the country African Americans, Latinos, and other voters of color continue to experience discrimination within the electoral process. This decision will have real impact on voters across America and Congress must take action to fix it," said John Comer with Communities United.
"The ACLU got involved in this case to defend the rights of minority voters and we are deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has put up a roadblock that makes voting less free, fair, and accessible," said Deborah Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland. "When Congress extended the Voting Rights Act in 2006 by another 25 years, with overwhelming bipartisan support, it correctly concluded that there is a great need for it. Now, it is up to Congress to draw a new formula that continues to protect the rights of minority voters."
The Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that dictates which jurisdictions need federal approval before changing their voting laws. This decision threatens to make second-class citizens out of millions of Americans and must be answered with quick, bipartisan action on Capitol Hill.
Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act establishes the formula that designates which jurisdictions must comply with the preclearance of Section 5. The existing formula was found to be unconstitutional and can no longer be used. In the majority opinion Chief Justice Roberts writes: "We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions." The resulting decision means that without speedy action from Congress establishing a new formula, Section 5 cannot be enforced.
The decision released today is major setback for voting rights and our democracy more broadly. The Supreme Court's decision has significant and real impact on millions voters. It is a shift away from decades of history to protect the rights of people of color and language minorities.
"We will work to ensure that Congress takes swift and decisive action to repair our Voting Rights Act, and continue to advocate for expanding access to voting here in Maryland," said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Executive Director for Common Cause Maryland.
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ACLU of Maryland, Common Cause Maryland, Communities United, and Progressive Maryland are non-profit organizations committed to increasing voter participation in elections and creating a fair and open political process in Maryland.