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Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne Presented Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Eliminate Voting Pre Clearance, Which Court Did Today

Phoenix, AZ (Tuesday, June 25, 2013) – Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne presented the principal Friend of Court Brief, joined in by three other states, which urged the U.S. Supreme Court to eliminate the law requiring pre clearance of all voter effected laws. This law had applied only to a limited number of states, including Arizona.  Today, the Court eliminated that requirement. 

Horne stated: “People can still bring law suits under Section 2 for any alleged discrimination. But the huge and expensive administrative burden of pre-clearance, which humiliates Arizona by making it say “Mother may I” to the Federal Government every time it wants to change some remarkably minor laws, has been eliminated.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1965 required preclearance only from states in the deep south that had a history of voting discrimination against African Americans. When the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of preclearance, it recognized that preclearance was a severe remedy, but the Court approved it for a limited time due to the severity of the discrimination that had occurred in the deep south.  

In 1975, the Act was amended to include “language minorities”. Any state that had a population of more than 5 percent belonging to a language minority, and that did not have bilingual ballots by 1972, would be an included state. This 1975 amendment was reverse engineered to take in Arizona, which adopted bilingual ballots in 1974, not 1972.  Now, more than a third of a century later, Arizona was still being punished for having adopted bilingual ballots in 1974, rather than in 1972.

The definition of language minorities was completely irrational.  Less than 2 percent of Arizona citizens can truly be considered to belong to a language minority. They got the figure of over 5 percent by including everyone with a Hispanic last name.  Many people with Hispanic last names have a perfect command of English. To consider them (with most of the 5 percent) as part of a “language minority” needing special protection against voting discrimination is absurd. 

A change as trivial as moving a precinct across the street had to be pre-cleared by the Justice Department. Because voter registration is offered on driver’s license applications, every voting change to driver’s license applications had to be pre-cleared, a huge administrative burden. 

About 40 to 50 Arizona laws had to be pre-cleared each year, and the Justice Department form is detailed. Two lawyers and a paralegal in the Attorney General’s office spent full time on these applications during part of the year, when their time can now be much better spent fighting crime.

A copy of Arizona’s Friend of Court Brief can be found here.
An interview of Tom Horne on Horizon can be found here.