Attorney General Becerra Joins Multistate Coalition in Defense of Anti-Discrimination Protections Under the Voting Rights Act
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general standing up for voting rights in an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. The case centers around consolidated challenges to a set of Arizona election rules, which were found to discriminate against Black, Latino, and Native American voters in the state. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition urges the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the Ninth Circuit’s decision striking down the discriminatory rules and upholding long-standing nationwide protections under the Voting Rights Act.
“Your right to vote shouldn’t be determined by the color of your skin,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s what our Constitution says and that’s exactly why we have the Voting Rights Act. Unfortunately, there are those who believe the only way they can win is by denying access to the ballot box — and taking their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, like we’ve done time and time again, we’re pushing back against those who seek to disenfranchise our fellow Americans. This isn’t about any one state or any one discriminatory law; this is about standing up for protections that are at the core of our pursuit for a more perfect union.”
On January 27, 2020, the Ninth Circuit ruled against an Arizona election law and separate administrative policy, which respectively worked to criminalize certain ballot collection activities and require ballots cast by voters out of precinct to be wholly discarded. In fact, the Ninth Circuit found that Arizona’s criminalization of the collection of another person’s ballot through House Bill 2023 of 2016 was enacted with discriminatory intent, placing restrictions that unlawfully impacted the ability of minority voters in particular to make their voices heard by entrusting their ballot to another individual for submission. Similarly, the Ninth Circuit ruled against Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy requiring that provisional ballots cast in person not be counted if the voter — even inadvertently and in electoral contests to which they are lawfully entitled to vote — casts the ballot outside their designated precinct, as violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Following the Ninth Circuit’s opinion, the Arizona Attorney General appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 27, 2020, as part of a direct effort to undermine protections guaranteed under the Voting Rights Act.
In the amicus brief, the coalition, among other things, asserts that:
- Contrary to the position taken by the Arizona Attorney General, election laws that appear to be generally applicable and racially neutral on their face can, in fact, violate the Voting Rights Act and result in a discriminatory denial or abridgment of the right to vote;
- Widely-used appellate court procedures for determining if there is a violation of the Voting Rights Act carefully limit liability under the law to only those election rules that actually deny people the right to vote; and
- The Ninth Circuit’s test under the Voting Rights Act does not raise constitutional questions because it prevents and deters unconstitutional conduct.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the voting rights of people in California and across the country. Last month, Attorney General Becerra joined an amicus brief against a last-ditch attempt to unlawfully overturn the results of the presidential election. In October, Attorney General Becerra joined an amicus brief in support of the Minnesota Secretary of State's decision to enter into a consent decree that extended the deadline for when vote-by-mail ballots can be received in Minnesota. Earlier that month, Attorney General Becerra sent a cease and desist letter — alongside the Secretary of State — to the California Republican Party to stop operating unauthorized ballot drop boxes. He also joined an amicus brief in support of a challenge to aspects of the State of Mississippi’s vote-by-mail requirements that threatened to exclude voters seeking to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. In August, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief pushing back on a Florida law attempting to roll back voting rights granted under an earlier felon re-enfranchisement law.
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.