By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
“Stunned” and “disbelief” are some of the words Asian American voting rights advocates are using to describe to AsAmNews this morning’s Supreme Court decision.
By a 5-4 vote, the conservative court rejected Congressional maps critics said diluted the voting power of Black voters.
Bob Sakaniwa of APIA Vote admitted during a phone interview with AsAmNews of “doing a double take because it was just really unexpected.”
Sakaniwa says the court has really been “chipping away” at Voting Rights since the 2013 Shelby vs Holder decision which overturned provisions that required jurisdictions with a history of voting rights violations to get prior approval before changing voting laws.
“This would have been the final nail in the coffin for the Voting Rights Act. We dodged a bullet here,” said Jerry Vattamala of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, also by phone to AsAmNews.
Asian American advocates applauded the decision not only for its protection of the African American vote but for its ramifications for Asian American voters as well.
“Asian Americans over the decades have often found themselves splintered across numerous districts, which has made it more challenging to harness the community’s political power and often leaves the community’s needs unmet,” said Terry Ao Minnis of Asian American Advancing Justice, AAJC by email.
She cited a case in Chicago in which Asian American voters in 2001 were divided into four city wards, three state senate districts, four state house districts and three congressional districts. She said each district included just a small number of Asian Americans leaving the community’s needs unmet. It was only after 2010 when district maps were drawn more fairly that Chinatown finally got a new two-story library.
In 2020, Texas redrew its maps in a way that advocates said splintered Asian American voters in Houston into numerous districts, making it unlikely those voters could elect a candidate of their choice. AALDFF is challenging those maps and expects their case to eventually go to court.
“This case could have hurt our Texas case. This decision reaffirms what we were arguing in the Texas case,” Vattamala said.
Another case advocates are closely watching is one in New York. Communities of color banded together to draw up what has become known as the “unity map.”
“Now, we wait with anticipation to see what New York will do—whether they will uphold a unity map proposed by a multi-racial coalition,” said Ao Minnis.
Those in favor of Alabama’s district maps argued that race should not be a factor in drawing up the map. The courts appear to have rejected that argument. It’s the same argument Students for Fair Admissions is making in challenging the use of race as a factor in college admissions.
However, it’s unknown if the justices will rule the same way in that case. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Supporters of the Voting Rights Act are calling this a “good day.”
“It’s important for all Americans, Asian Americans included, because it reaffirms the notion that voting laws have to be fair and developed and implemented in a way that doesn’t harm them,” said Sakinawa. “Laws can’t be passed to make it harder when it comes to voting.”
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