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New York leads defense of voting rights

The U.S. Supreme Court was to hear arguments today in a case challenging the constitutionality of a core provision of the Voting Rights Act.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman led a four-state coalition to argue that the court should reject the constitutional challenge to the law given the important role that the Voting Rights Act plays in blocking and deterring voting discrimination. The brief was filed jointly with California, Mississippi and North Carolina in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.

The constitutional challenge in the case aims at the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires certain jurisdictions, including several covered counties in New York, to submit new voting changes for federal review to ensure that they were not adopted with a discriminatory purpose and will not negatively impact minority voter participation.

“The Voting Rights Act stands as one of Congress’ greatest legislative achievements and its protections remain vital to ensuring that all voters have equal access to the democratic process,” Schneiderman said.

Shelby County argued that Section 5 is no longer required and claimed that Congress exceeded its powers when it reauthorized the law in 2006.

A copy of the states’ brief is available online at: www.ag.ny.gov.