ACLU Moves to Intervene In Voting Rights Act Challenge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed a motion in a Washington, D.C. federal court today to intervene in the state of Arizona’s challenge to the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). The ACLU argues that Section 5 of the Act, which since 1965 has protected racial and language minorities’ access to voting, must remain in place. “Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is critical for ensuring that states do not pass election laws that negatively affect minority voters,” said Katie O’Connor, staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “We are intervening in this case to make sure that this critical piece of legislation is upheld, so that everyone’s fundamental right to vote is protected.” On Aug. 25, Arizona became the first state to challenge this section of the VRA since it was reauthorized in 2006. In Arizona v. Holder, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne claims that during the 2006 reauthorization of the law, Congress did not provide evidence of continuing discrimination in Arizona and that Section 5 imposes a severe burden on the state. “This latest move by Tom Horne to bail out of the VRA is part of a nationwide effort to rob people of color of their voice at the ballot box,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Considering he is leading efforts to defend SB1070 and the Mexican-American studies ban – two laws that scapegoat U.S. citizens of Latino descent – it’s shameful and disingenuous for him to say that discrimination in Arizona doesn’t exist.” Because of Arizona’s long history of implementing procedures that have had a discriminatory impact on voters, especially Latino voters and those with limited English proficiency, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires the state to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any new voting practices or procedures that could negatively impact or dilute their future votes. “The ongoing attempts to politicize the re-districting process by the Arizona legislative and executive branches in total disregard of voters’ choice of an independent commission demonstrate the fragile state of the fundamental right to an effective vote for all Arizonans,” added Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Arizona. The ACLU filed the motion to intervene on behalf of seven voters who live in Arizona. They are: Latino voter and immigrant rights activist Luis Avila, who currently serves as President of the Somos America Coalition, Napoleon Pisa