Remarks as Delivered
Good afternoon and thank you for coming. Today, the Justice Department has filed suit against the State of Texas for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. As the Supreme Court has observed, a core principle of our democracy is that “voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires that state voting laws – including laws that draw electoral maps – provide eligible voters with an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process and elect representatives of their choosing.
The complaint we filed today alleges that Texas has violated Section 2 by creating redistricting plans that deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language minority group. In a moment, Associate Attorney General Gupta will describe our complaint in more detail.
As many of you know, in 2013, the Supreme Court effectively eliminated the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which had been the department’s best tool for protecting voting rights.
Earlier this year, I noted that this redistricting cycle would be the first to proceed since 1960 without the protection of preclearance. But I also said that the department would use all available authorities and resources to continue protecting the right to vote.
In September, the department published guidance based on decades of precedent explaining that Section 2 prohibits “vote dilution.” Vote dilution occurs when an electoral practice minimizes or cancels out the voting strength of members of a racial group or language minority group.
When we issued that guidance, I noted that discriminatory redistricting schemes are illegal and that the department would “assess jurisdictions’ compliance with those laws during this redistricting cycle.”
The department’s career voting law experts have assessed Texas’s new redistricting plans and determined that they include districts that violate the Voting Rights Act.
Last month, we filed a separate lawsuit against the State of Texas, alleging that Texas Senate Bill 1 improperly restricts the assistance voters who have a disability or who are unable to read or write can receive in the voting booth.
Last week, we filed a statement of interest in Arizona litigation to explain that private plaintiffs had plausibly alleged that certain new voting laws in that state were passed with a discriminatory purpose.
We also filed a statement of interest in Florida litigation explaining, among other things, that private parties can bring claims to enforce the Voting Rights Act. In all these matters, we have carefully assessed the facts and the law before taking action.
I am grateful to the dedicated staff of the Voting Section for their work today and every day to protect the right of all eligible citizens to vote.
Before I conclude, I want to again urge Congress to restore the Justice Department’s preclearance authority. Were that preclearance tool still in place, we would likely not be here today announcing this complaint.
I will now turn the podium over to Associate Attorney General Gupta. Thank you.