The New York Voting Rights Consortium Endorses
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York
Today, the New York Voting Rights Consortium, a non-partisan group of civil rights organizations, reiterated its support for the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York (NYVRA). The consortium, which includes the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) at Medgar Evers College, urges the New York State Legislature to take up and pass the NYVRA as soon as possible, as its protections are now more critical than ever, both for New York and for the nation.
Certain jurisdictions in New York State have a long history of discriminating against voters of color through suppressive election laws and policies. These have included voter purges in which predominantly Latinx and Asian Americans were removed from the state’s voter rolls, congressional redistricting plans that discriminated against communities of color by making it more difficult for them to elect their preferred candidates, and the frequent use of at-large elections, which often prevent voters of color from electing any candidates of choice if they constitute a minority of their jurisdiction.
Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) required some of those jurisdictions, along with all or part of 14 additional states, to submit any voting-related changes for preclearance to a federal court or the attorney general to determine whether they were discriminatory. This preclearance mechanism was considered the “heart” of the Voting Rights Act. In a devastating 2013 decision, the Supreme Court essentially invalidated Section 5.
As Congress struggles to simply begin debate on election reforms, much less enact federal legislation to re-enact a new preclearance mechanism, it’s essential that policymakers in Albany re-create a preclearance system for jurisdictions in New York, where the risk of discrimination against voters of color remains especially high. By requiring those jurisdictions to obtain approval from the state attorney general before they change any voting procedures, the NYVRA will address this urgent threat to the rights of New York’s citizens. And it will position New York as a national leader in protecting the right to vote.
“This act is a critical piece of legislation that, for New York residents, will restore many of the former federal voter protections that were gutted by the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “In particular, the reintroduction of preclearance will help ensure that voters of color in New York have equal access to the ballot box – and that they are safeguarded from voter suppression tactics. In the strongest terms, we urge state lawmakers to make this bill a top priority when they return to Albany this week.”
“The New York State Voting Rights Act will protect New Yorkers voters of African descent and other people of color from voter discrimination fueled by increasingly restrictive and onerous laws that chip away at minority suffrage,” says Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., CLSJ’s Executive Director. "This critical legislation seeks to create a New York State version of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and will restore many of the VRA protections that were gutted by the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby vs Holder. These protections will allow our communities to more freely engage in American democracy by casting ballots to determine its future at every level. For more than 30 years, CLSJ has fought to protect and advance voting rights for New Yorkers of African descent, and we are excited to see our state elected officials continue in this fight for justice.”
“Latinos in New York account for more than 2 million eligible voters statewide – the largest nonwhite voting bloc in the state. LatinoJustice PRLDEF strongly supports the New York State Voting Rights Act which provides proactive protections to ensure that the fundamental right to vote is available to Latino and other minority voters. The bill provisions requiring assistance for language-minority voters in any electoral jurisdictions where more than 2 percent of citizens (or 4,000 registrants) of voting age are part of a single-language minority group will help ensure that Spanish-speaking New Yorkers are able to exercise their right to vote without facing insurmountable language barriers,” said Lourdes Rosado, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
The NYVRA gives New York the chance to ensure that all eligible voters in New York have an equal and unburdened opportunity to exercise the fundamental right to vote in state and local elections, free from discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a language-minority group. In addition to restoring preclearance, the proposed law — which is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Zellnor Myrie as S.1046A, and in the Assembly by Assemblymember Latrice Walker and others as A.6678A — strengthens other voter protections, making it easier to address instances of vote dilution and voter suppression, intimidation, or interference. It also strengthens language-access protections and increases public access to data necessary for voting rights enforcement, election protection, and transparent policymaking by public officials.
The consortium strongly supports this legislation and any other efforts that make it easier for New York residents—including the more than three million registered voters in New York who identify as Black, Latino, or Asian—to participate in the electoral process and exercise their constitutional rights.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.
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LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For nearly 50 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout the country. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit www.LatinoJustice.org
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a New York-based national organization founded in 1974, protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all. AALDEF focuses on critical issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, voting rights and democracy, economic justice for workers, educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence.
About The Center For Law And Social Justice At Medgar Evers College
CLSJ’s mission is to address racial justice issues by providing quality legal advocacy, conducting community education campaigns, facilitating research and building organizing capacity on behalf of New Yorkers of African descent and the disenfranchised. To learn more about CLSJ visit www.CLSJ.org.