The New Year is likely to amass a wave of issues that will affect Latinos including a pending case in the Supreme Court that revisits a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In Shelby County vs. Holder, the Supreme Court justices will be deciding whether it makes sense to pursue section 5. The provision requires that lawmakers who want to enact changes to voting laws are obligated to seek permission from the federal government in states with a history of discrimination. Advocates argue that without this key provision, federal judges would not have been able to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. It also voided district maps in Texas and prevented early voting in parts of Florida. Yet, critics claim the provision is outdated.
Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week in a hearing on voting rights. She cited four cases where MALDEF claims lawmakers sought to disenfranchise Latino voters because of the changes in voting laws, which would have impacted these past elections.
The cases include state laws in Arizona that requires documentary proof of citizenship, Texas voter ID requirements, voter purges in Florida and Colorado and Texas redistricting maps.
“State practices that seek to “freeze in place” their current electorates and limit the entry of Latino voters can run afoul of federal law as well as the Constitution and are fundamentally undemocratic,” stated Perales.
Perales cites that following enactment of Arizona’s voting law to provide proof of citizenship known as Proposition 200, more than 30,000 individuals were rejected for voter registration. The Texas ID law seen as the strictest in the nation—because it permits fewer forms of ID for in-person voting—has not gone into effect she cites because a federal court in Washington D.C. concluded that it violated the federal Voting Rights Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice denied preclearance to SB 14 in part because the statistical analysis provided by Texas in the preclearance process showed that “Hispanic registered voters are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic registered voters to lack” a DPS-issued driver’s license or ID card, according to her testimony.