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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Justice Department Files Statement of Interest Regarding Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act

The Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest Monday in an Alabama federal court to promote the proper and uniform interpretation of the Voting Rights Act. The Statement of Interest is part of the Department of Justice’s continuing efforts around the country to enforce our nation’s federal voting rights laws.

The lawsuit in question, brought by private plaintiffs, includes constitutional and statutory challenges to Alabama’s witness requirement for absentee ballots. Although certain of private plaintiffs’ claims relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, plaintiffs have also asked the court to enjoin Alabama’s witness requirement permanently as a violation of Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act. 

The Statement of Interest explains that Section 201 prohibits denial of the right to vote to citizens who fail to prove their qualifications by the voucher of registered voters or members of any other class. Alabama’s absentee witness requirement, however, does not violate Section 201. The Statement of Interest does not take a position on any of the private plaintiffs’ other claims.

“The Voting Rights Act outlaws certain practices that deprive Americans of the right to vote because of race and other protected traits. The Voting Rights Act does not outlaw all voting-related requirements enacted by the States,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “Congress has entrusted the U.S. Department of Justice with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and the other federal voting rights laws. These laws protect the right of Americans to vote for their preferred candidates. We will continue to enforce them fairly, including by explaining to courts the legal framework that governs challenges to the voting laws enacted by the States.” 

Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act is a permanent, nationwide prohibition on the use of tests and devices in our elections. These unlawful procedures include literacy tests, educational achievement or knowledge tests, good moral character requirements, and voucher requirements. 

More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting rights laws is available on the Department of Justice website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section. Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws may be reported to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
20-481
Updated May 26, 2020