Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) released the following statement today regarding the United States Supreme Court review of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. Congresswoman Waters joined Members of the Tri-Caucus (Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Asian Pacific American Caucus) on the steps of the Supreme Court as the court prepared to hear oral arguments.
"The Voting Rights Act is still one of the most critical and successful pieces of legislation that protects the right to vote for all Americans. Under specific review today was Section 5, which requires states and municipalities with a history of discrimination to seek federal pre-clearance before changing their election laws or procedures. This challenge is a threat to the basic principle of our democracy that every citizen's voice should be heard and their vote protected by our government.
"The Voting Rights Act is directly responsible for outlawing the discriminatory practices that had disenfranchised African-Americans and it remains essential for protecting the voting power of our growing Latino, Asian and other minority populations. Although the poll taxes, literacy tests and voter intimidation tactics of 50 years ago have been replaced by photo ID laws and limits on early voting; still, the game remains the same: deny and prevent minorities from exercising their fundamental right to vote as American citizens. It is in this context that it is clear that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is as relevant now as it was nearly five decades ago.
"This is not an issue of race or of political ideology. It is a threat to the very fabric on which our democracy was built and the foundation upon which it stands. We should not be making it more difficult for voters to cast their ballot. We should be working to do everything we can to improve access and participation in the democratic process.
"While it may be months before a final decision is reached, the potential consequences of an unfavorable ruling cannot be overemphasized. The outcome of this ruling could roll back hard-earned voting rights, dilute the voting power of growing populations and empower those who seek to implement new tricks to keep minorities from the polls. I urge the Supreme Court to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and maintain the free exercise of voting rights of all Americans."