SAN ANTONIO – This week’s US Supreme Court ruling may have surprised many people, given the high court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act 10 years ago.
Back then, the landmark voting rights law mandated states with a history of voting discrimination get federal pre-clearance before changing the way they held elections.
“What we saw was a very traditional application of voting rights law as it has existed for many decades,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who said Thursday the ruling wasn’t unexpected.
“What we know is that this was a very strong case out of Alabama,” Perales said.
She said the high court, this time, defended the Voting Rights Act.
“The Supreme Court very firmly rejected Alabama’s arguments that minority voting rights cases have to be without respect to race,” Perales said. “If you’re going to bring a voting rights case for minority voters, you have to be able to take race into account and talk about racial discrimination.”
Perales said MALDEF’s redistricting lawsuit argues that Texas failed to take into account the state’s Latino population that has grown significantly in the past decade.
“But the new political maps that were drawn by Texas didn’t expand any Latino electoral opportunity in all four maps, state House, state Senate, Congressional and State Board of Education,” Perales said.
She said MALDEF wants those maps tossed, like the ones in Alabama that the Supreme Court ruled discriminated against African-American voters.
Perales said the Alabama ruling won’t necessarily change how MALDEF litigates its lawsuit.
However, she said, “It’s very helpful for us in the Texas case … affirming the standards that protect minority voters.”
MALDEF’s lawsuit, filed in October 2021 following the 2020 census, is awaiting a trial date.