CAPAC Members Express Disappointment with Supreme Court Decision in Shelby v. Holder

Jun 25, 2013 Issues: Civil Rights

Washington, DC – Today, Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements on the United States Supreme Court's decision on Shelby County v. Holder:

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair: “I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to erode a critical component of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). For almost half a century, the VRA has provided vital protections for minority voters. Congress must act immediately to remedy the Court’s misguided decision and ensure that all Americans have equal access to the ballot box.”

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI): “The Voting Rights Act has been critical to ensuring every American has access to one of our country’s most fundamental freedoms – the right to vote. I am very disappointed that the Supreme Court assumed that voter registration and participation is no longer as much of a concern for minority voters. I couldn’t disagree more. Congress must act quickly to restore the key provisions the Supreme Court struck down and protect every Americans’ right to vote.”

Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), CAPAC Civil Rights Taskforce Chair: “Today's Supreme Court ruling is a disappointing setback for voting rights.  The states presently covered under Section 5 were covered "the old fashioned way: they earned it."  The Judiciary Committee must immediately begin work on drafting a new formula for covering jurisdictions under section 5.  Meanwhile the Attorney General must immediately file suit to block the implementation of many state laws that have passed and have not yet been pre-cleared.”

Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “It is extremely disappointing that the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act (VRA) today.  Despite acknowledging that voting discrimination still exists, the majority nonetheless chose to declare unconstitutional the formula determining which states and localities the VRA applies to.  As chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I know how vital it is for racial and ethnic minorities to take part in the electoral process.  As Justice Ginsberg noted in her dissent, there were numerous examples of discriminatory practices from jurisdictions covered by the formula that were blocked by the VRA, but would now be permitted.  It saddens me that with this decision, millions of voices may no longer be heard at the ballot box.  We must act to ensure that people from all walks of life are able to participate fully in our democracy.”

Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip: “Today's decision by the Supreme Court to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is incredibly disappointing. For over 45 years, the Voting Rights Act has provided voting protections to millions of Americans who are susceptible to disenfranchisement by prohibiting districts and states from changing their election laws and procedures without getting approval from the federal government. I plan to work with my colleagues in Congress to explore every possible remedy to this misguided decision, including passing new standards that would prevent regions from participating in voter suppression, as the Court has requested.”

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (AS): “Today’s Supreme Court decision on Shelby v. Holder is a grave disappointment and a disaster for our democracy. By striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court has also rendered Section 5 ineffective and removed a crucial law that protected voters in states with a history of discriminatory voting practices. Congress must work to protect and secure this fundamental right in our democracy. We must make it a top priority to ensure ballot access for all eligible Americans.”

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01): “This is a disturbing decision and a blow to equality in America. In striking down a critical component of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court has endangered one of the most critical of citizens' rights: the power to choose the people who represent them in government. For decades, the law has protected the right to vote for millions of minority voters across the country, ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to be heard and make a difference. Since being signed by President Lyndon Johnson, the Voting Rights Act has received bipartisan support by Congress, and was recently extended in 2006. Now that Congress is tasked with developing a new formula on the eve of an election year, I will do all that I can to protect this fundamental right and ensure that voting opportunities are expanded and not suppressed.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13): “Discrimination is still haunting us, not in the form of a poll tax, but in a clear and coordinated effort to disenfranchise communities of color, older Americans, students, and other vulnerable populations. We should be making it easier for participation in this democratic process, not harder. This decision today has gutted a key piece of the most effective civil rights legislation ever enacted by Congress. That right is the heart and soul of our democracy, and we must defend it. I will continue to fight in Congress to ensure equal access to the polls and to ensure that the right to vote is never compromised. Today, I call on Republicans to come to the table with Democrats in a bipartisan way and work together on this enormously important issue.”

Grace Meng (NY-06): “The Supreme Court’s decision is extremely disappointing. It guts the Voting Rights Act and sets back decades of progress. The Voting Rights Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever enacted into law. For nearly 50 years, this vital law has knocked down roadblocks that have interfered with the rights of Americans to cast their ballots, and it has continued to ensure that all Americans can fully exercise their constitutional right to vote. Although this decision is a setback, it will not end our efforts to combat discriminatory voting practices. We will keep up the fight. I urge Congress to pass legislation that would revamp this law. With today’s attack on voter rights, Congress must act to ensure that all Americans are afforded their right to vote. With all the progress we’ve made, we cannot afford to turn back the clock now.”

Congressman Gerald Connolly (VA-11): “The Supreme Court decision is guilty of judicial casuistry.  Rather than striking down this law, they erode all of the law’s effective parts.  We have conservative judicial activism overturning 50 years of voting rights law that has well-served our nation.”

Congresswoman Susan Davis (CA-53): “This is a sad day for our democracy. Asian Americans continue to face discrimination and unnecessary hurdles like language barriers when it comes to voting.  The Voting Rights Act has had and continues to have a meaningful positive impact on the community. As Justice Ginsburg remarked in her dissent, now is not the time to be complacent about voter protections.  It's a shame that the Court has struck down a law that has done so much good.”

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19): “This decision is disappointing because the Supreme Court used the Voting Rights Act’s success to justify striking this key section down, even as it acknowledged that voting discrimination still exists today. Every eligible citizen is entitled to their Constitutional right to vote free from artificial barriers or hurdles.  It’s a bedrock principle we reaffirmed through careful bipartisan work in the Judiciary Committee when Congress last renewed the Voting Rights Act in 2006.  Congress now has a responsibility to take this matter up again, as the Court suggests it should, to ensure that spirit is reflected in the law so no one is disenfranchised from their fundamental right to vote.” 

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47): "I agree with Justice Ginsberg, who said in her dissent that the Voting Rights Acts is one of the 'most consequential, efficacious, and amply justified exercises of federal legislative power in our Nation’s history.' Today’s decision by the court majority eviscerates the VRA and opens the door for voter discrimination and suppression on an unprecedented level. This is a sizable step backwards in our collective national journey toward social justice and civil rights. Congress must move quickly in a decisive bipartisan way to update the VRA and continue vital protections for minority voters.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40): “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 remains one of the most important and historic pieces of legislation ever enacted by the United States Congress.  Section five of the act has successfully protected voters from discrimination and it is extremely disappointing the Supreme Court has rolled back these provisions.  Elections are the keystone of representative democracy and Congress should act to ensure that all citizens can exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot in a manner that is equitable, accessible, free and fair.”

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09): “I am very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act today.  In the last election, low income voters and people of color, mainly Hispanic and African Americans, waited in line nearly twice as long as white voters.  It is clear that we must do more, not less, to protect the rights of all people and ensure we have equal access to the polls. The Voting Rights Act has played a critical role in protecting individuals’ right to vote regardless of race, ethnic background, or level of income. By striking Section Four, the Supreme Court limited the federal government’s ability to implement Section Five, consequently rendering the Voting Rights Act powerless and threatening the right to vote for many Americans.  Any state can now implement Voter ID laws and redraw district lines to dilute the voices of large populations of mainly racial and ethnic minorities without federal oversight. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act to fix the disenfranchisement of targeted voters - mainly African Americans. Decades since, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized and supported by Presidents and Members of Congress of both parties.  To ensure a thriving democracy, Congress must come together again to create a new formula that will ensure all Americans have their voices heard at the ballot box.  I remain committed to doing all I can to ensure that no voter experiences discrimination.”

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The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.