Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) released the following statement today after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. In its decision, the Supreme Court effectively invalidated Section 4 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"I am deeply troubled by today's Supreme Court decision striking critical protections within the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court struck Section 4, a provision which outlines the formula federal officials have used to determine which states must clear new voting laws with the Department of Justice. This decision ignores the persistence of discrimination in voting and weakens a vital tool that has protected the right to vote for all Americans for nearly 50 years.
"According to a recent Census Bureau report in 2012, African-Americans voted at a higher rate (66.2 percent) than non-Hispanic Whites (64.1 percent) for the first time since the Census Bureau started publishing voting rates by eligible citizenship population in 1996. These gains can be attributed to the many activists and public officials who mobilized their communities to push back against stringent voter suppression laws that were being adopted in Republican-led state legislatures across the country. These policies and measures included voting restrictions effecting college voters, the elderly, and ex-felons.
"Today's decision must therefore be viewed within the context of the new voter laws that have already passed, and the more restrictive measures that will likely follow in the coming months. Voter suppression laws distort electoral outcomes which can disadvantage vulnerable populations. And as more African-Americans, Latinos, and young voters have become engaged in our democracy, I am concerned that any new voter suppression measures that are developed as a result of this ruling will impact their access to the ballot box.
"In 2006, I was proud to join an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans who recognized that protecting the fundamental right to vote remains an urgent priority. Counting the votes in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, Congress voted by a margin of 488-33 to reauthorize the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the court struck down today. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court decided that its five votes outweighed the voice and the will of the American people.
"Today's decision requires that Congress act swiftly and with urgency to protect voters and address the persistent threat of voter discrimination. Despite partisan gridlock in Congress, we proved in 2006 that protecting the right to vote is a bipartisan goal. I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that the right to vote remains a reality for everyone. We must also continue to educate and raise awareness about the Voting Rights Act and impress upon people the importance of the law in ensuring that all Americans' voting rights are protected."