Racial Disparities Don’t Prove Discrimination Supreme Court Case Could Impact Election Integrity Challenges

Washington, D.C. – As part of an important voting rights case being considered today by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Project 21 black leadership network joined a legal brief  asking the justices to remember that “[e]qual protection should ensure that government decision-making is free from the taint of racial considerations, but disparate impact liability does not allow racial impartiality.” 
 
The Court will hear arguments today in a case that may render unconstitutional many of the race-based conjectures that mark sweeping new election reforms being considered by the U.S. Congress.
 
“Phony claims of voter suppression should never trump legitimate voter integrity measures,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper. “All Americans – black, white or brown – benefit from ensuring that authentic, duly-registered voters cast the ballots that decide what policies and elected officials will govern their communities.” 
 
The case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee will determine the constitutionality of challenges to Arizona laws prohibiting “ballot harvesting”  and the counting of provisional ballots not cast in assigned voting precincts. While these laws have been challenged as a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 15th Amendment’s protections from racial discrimination infringing upon voting rights, they were upheld by the lower federal appeals court.
 
Project 21 joined an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief written by the Pacific Legal Foundation that was also joined by the Center for Equal Opportunity. Noting that the Brnovich case compels the Court to decide “between two fundamentally different interpretations of the Voting Rights Act,” the brief argued that:
 
Reasonable minds can and do differ as to whether these policies are advisable or necessary. But neither policy imposes a racially discriminatory burden on voting. And neither policy deprives any Arizona voter of the equal opportunity to cast a legal ballot.
 
In response to claims that statistical disparities prove racial discrimination, the brief further explained:
 
Equality of opportunity goes hand-in-hand with causation. If a statistical impact is observed, but a State’s election laws provide equal opportunity for everyone to participate in the process, it follows that the State’s election laws have not caused the disparate impact. The cause of the disparity in such a case is simply the “failure to take advantage of political opportunity.”
 
“The Voting Rights Act was signed into law over 50 years ago to eliminate discrimination against blacks at the ballot box. This groundbreaking and historic law should not be manipulated into a vehicle to sow doubt, confusion, chaos and racial animosity into the electoral process,” said Project 21 member Christopher Arps. “Permitting so-called ‘ballot harvesting’ and the counting of votes cast at a wrong precinct do just that. I hope the justices take this into consideration when they render their decision later this year.” 
 
The justices will render a ruling on the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee case before the end of June.
To schedule an interview with a member of Project 21 on this or other issues, contact Judy Kent at (703) 477-7476.
                                                                        
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