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AG James Joins Coalition to Defend Voting Rights Act


New York Attorney General Letitia James has joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general defending Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, against challenges raised in a Georgia redistricting lawsuit. In an amicus brief filed in Pendergrass v. Secretary of State of Georgia and two other consolidated cases, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit should uphold decades of legal precedent protecting the voting power of minority communities. The coalition, through the amicus brief, urges the Court to uphold the constitutionality of Section 2 and private citizens’ rights to file lawsuits to challenge discriminatory election practices for violating Section 2.

“Empowering Americans to have their voices heard and respected in the halls of power is the very foundation of our society,” said Attorney General James. “The Voting Rights Act is an essential civil rights law that protects voters everywhere from discrimination and disenfranchisement. Drawing district lines to undermine the political power of voters of color is illegal and an attack on the core principles of our democracy. Today, I am joining my fellow attorneys general to stand up for a critical part of the Voting Rights Act that protects voters from discrimination.”

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act bans any election practice or procedure that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” or membership in a minority-language group. It also prohibits election laws or structures that create unequal opportunities for political participation and prevents states from creating legislative districts that dilute the political power of minority voters.

After the 2020 census, states across the country redrew electoral maps. In 2021 and 2022, voting rights organizations and multiple individual voters took action to challenge Georgia’s new congressional and state legislative district maps, alleging that the maps unlawfully diluted the political power of the state’s Black voters. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled in favor of the voters and voting rights organizations and ordered Georgia to redraw its maps to include additional majority-Black districts. The Georgia Secretary of State appealed this decision, arguing in part that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional to the extent that it authorized the court to order Georgia to draw race-conscious maps to remedy Section 2 violations and that individual voters and private organizations do not have a right to sue to challenge racially discriminatory election practices for violating Section 2.

Section 2 is the nation’s primary tool to combat racially discriminatory election practices, such as racially gerrymandered districts, and the attorneys general recognize the important place these private lawsuits play in fighting for equal voting rights. In their amicus brief, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that it is constitutional to take race into account to address Section 2 violations and that this is a critical tool authorized by Congress to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which bans states from denying or abridging citizens’ right to vote on the basis of race. They also argue that the text of Section 2 and decades of legal precedent clearly establish that individual voters have the power to challenge racially discriminatory election practices under Section 2. Private citizens have sued to enforce Section 2 since it was enacted, and all but one court that has addressed the issue has ruled that they have this power.

Joining Attorney General James in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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