Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association Expresses Disappointment with the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act Opinion

(NEW YORK, June 28, 2013)  This week the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling, rendered its opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. __ (Jun. 25, 2013)The Shelby decision involved Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.*  Section 4 of the Act established a “coverage formula” to determine which states and local governments properly fall under Section 5 of the Act, and thus were required to get approval before changing their voting laws.  The justices ruled that Section 4 of the Act is unconstitutional, and that the formula, which has been used for decades, can no longer be used to establish preclearance requirements.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who delivered the Court’s opinion stated: “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”  In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated “the Court today terminates the remedy that proved to be best suited to block that discrimination.” Justice Ginsburg’s dissent articulates the continued need for Section 5 preclearance for those states with poor voting rights records, and noted that in July 2006, the House and Senate passed the reauthorization of preclearance by overwhelming margins (House 390 to 33; Senate 98 to 0).

The ruling has already had potentially adverse consequences.  Shortly after the decision, Texas announced that a voter identification law that had previously been blocked is now free to take effect immediately.  Also, redistricting maps will no longer need federal approval, and “changes in voting procedures in places that had been covered by the law, including those concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to ‘after-the-fact’ litigation.” See “Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act,” New York Times, June 25, 2013.

Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his disappointment in the decision and stated: “Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action – using every legal tool that remains available to us – against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the [voting] franchise." 

Amistad echoes the disappointment of the nation’s leaders with the Supreme Court’s decision. 

Considering that Long Island is the home of the seminal voting rights decision Goosby v. Town of Hempstead, the organization would be remiss if we did not declare our opposition to rulings that potentially marginalize voters of color.  In Goosby, a federal judge ordered the Town of Hempstead to replace its at-large voting system with six geographic districts, stating that the system then in place “invidiously excludes Blacks from effective participation in political life.” The Goosby Second Circuit decision is available at this link:

Amistad, an affiliate of the National Bar Association (the “NBA”) fully intends to stand alongside the NBA in its efforts to bear pressure on policy makers and on Congress to enact a viable Section 5 coverage mechanism that deals with continuing impediments to the fundamental right to vote. We stand in solidarity with organizations committed to ensuring that the right to vote is not impeded for anyone, particularly various members of communities in our backyard. 

Submitted on behalf of the

Amistad Institute of the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association

*The Court’s complete opinion is available at this link:


The Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association was founded in 1996. Formerly, the organization was known as the Amistad Suffolk Black Bar Association before it expanded to both the Nassau and Suffolk regions. Amistad was created to foster community, professional development, and growth among attorneys of color in the Long Island area.

Amistad is an affiliate of the National Bar Association.


The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) urges the United States Congress to reinstate the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Section 4, that were invalidated this past Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by the United States Supreme Court in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.

Shelby eliminates the preclearance requirement for certain states or areas in which discrimination had historically been found to exist.  Preclearance required covered states and jurisdictions to submit all changes affecting voting and elections for preapproval by the U.S. Department of Justice.  The decision in Shelby will likely lead to legal sanctioning of efforts to undermine voting rights.

This ruling hits home. Certain New York counties including New York, Kings and the Bronx were areas for which preclearance had been required, based on a prior history of voter discrimination. The Shelby ruling clears the way for the reinstatement of discriminatory practices, such as efforts to restrict access to voting sites or attempts to gerrymander voting districts to dilute the voting power of Asian Americans in New York’s Chinatown or African Americans in Harlem. The profound impact of such practices on the voting rights and electoral aspirations of the affected minority voters in those areas cannot be overstated.

The record the Supreme Court considered contains ample evidence that voting rights discrimination is alive and well in 2013 as it was in 1964.  Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion chronicles that evidence. 

The unfettered right to vote is a precondition of representative democracy.  Retrenchment on that right undermines many other rights such as the right to free speech.  Until Shelby, the necessity of a strong Voting Rights Act was universally recognized. 

Congress must act and exercise its power to provide the checks and balances that our Constitution established when the Founders formed our union to ensure a balanced government.  Voting rights are under attack and we urge Congress and the Administration to take prompt action to defend this most fundamental civil right.


AABANY was formed in 1989 as a not-for-profit corporation to represent the interests of New York Asian American attorneys, judges, law professors, legal professionals, paralegals and law students.  The mission of AABANY is to improve the study and practice of law, and the fair administration of justice for all by ensuring the meaningful participation of Asian Americans in the legal profession.