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AZ leaders react to voting rights ruling

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Tom Horne, Gov. Jan Brewer (Source: CBS 5 News) Tom Horne, Gov. Jan Brewer (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

Elected officials in Arizona are praising the Supreme Court's decision on voting rights.

Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne applauded the ruling Tuesday that said requiring Arizona and other states to seek federal approval for changes to election policies is unconstitutional because it relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect racial progress in the U.S.

The court didn't strike down the provision of the law that determines which states are subject to federal approval, but it said it cannot be enforced until Congress creates a new formula.

Horne called the provision a huge administrative burden.

But civil rights leaders in Arizona claim the preclearance rule is necessary because elected leaders continue to back policies that disenfranchise certain voters.

Statement from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer:

"With its ruling today on the Voting Rights Act, the High Court has dealt a victory for states' rights and sovereignty - releasing Arizona from a nearly 40-year federal stranglehold over our voting system. The Chief Justice, writing on behalf of the majority, reiterated this important point in today's ruling. He said, 'the Framers of the Constitution intended the States to keep for themselves, as provided in the Tenth Amendment, the power to regulate elections.'

"The original voting rights measure was implemented in 1965 as a buffer against discriminatory voting practices in states where systemic racism was historically common. In 1975, the act was amended to include jurisdictions with a prevalent "language minority" population that had not provided bilingual ballots by 1972. Despite Arizona's adoption of bilingual ballots in 1974, the law's retroactive application has trapped Arizona under the thumb of the federal government for almost four decades - with no viable process for the state's voting laws to be released from federal scrutiny.

"Today's ruling provides relief for the State of Arizona. Even if Congress enacts a new statute, it is unlikely Arizona would be mandated to continue to seek federal approval for even the most routine changes to our election procedures. Simply put, decisions that affect states should be left to states. I am grateful to the High Court for ruling on the side of sovereignty and federal restraint."

Statement from Alessandra Soler, executive director, ACLU of Arizona:

"We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has put up a roadblock to make voting less fair and accessible. Arizona has a long and pervasive history of implementing measures that have had a discriminatory impact on minority voters, and that discrimination cannot be dismissed as a relic of the past. As we've seen with Prop 200 and a harmful new election bill that was just signed into law, politicians in Arizona continue to manipulate election laws for their own political gain and impair the voting rights of minorities. We will continue to work in the courts and Arizona Legislature to ensure that access to voting remains strong."

Statement from Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva:

"This ruling doesn't invite a better, more updated formula, it invites gridlock. Today the majority on the Court washed its hands of evidence of discrimination, declared the current remedies invalid, and intentionally left it to a damaged institution to invent a new solution from scratch. That's not going to sit well with millions of Americans who face disenfranchisement.

"What about this law is broken?" What about this law isn't working? It's doing exactly what it was intended to do - prevent discrimination and disenfranchisement. This is a political decision that will undermine confidence in our electoral process. Now people who experience problems will only be able to go to court after they've been denied their rights. This is a recipe for preventable legal trouble on a national scale. In that sense, this ruling is a disaster waiting to happen."

Statement from the Maricopa County Democratic Party:

"Today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The Maricopa County Democratic Party is deeply disappointed by this decision.

"Given the recent passage of AZ House Bill 2305, which will impact minority voters here in Arizona, we are troubled by the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Congress' extension of the Voting Rights Act. The most basic democratic right to vote must not, in any way, be burdened by politicians who make partisan decisions regarding the electoral process. Established in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has seen challenges throughout the past 48 years. The Warren Court required the Act to be periodically reviewed by Congress. In 2006, Congress voted overwhelmingly to renew the VRA for 25 years.

"Up 'till now, the Voting Rights Act required that Arizona, and 8 other states with large minority populations and history of discriminatory election laws, receive preclearance by the Department of Justice or a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court in order to implement any changes in election procedure. The Act lays the burden of proof with these states, that changes be neither intentionally nor effectively discriminatory.

"The Maricopa County Democratic Party understands that voters are often discouraged with some of the challenges already inherent in the electoral process. Putting trust in the process of drawing district lines that are fair and compliant is paramount and one of the reasons voters passed the establishment of the Independent Redistrict Commission over a decade ago. Continued oversight in a state with a large minority population gives voters protection from practices that could lead to disenfranchisement.

"The implications of this ruling and what Congress chooses to do in response, will no doubt take time. Until today, Republican Leadership has stayed relatively quiet on the issue; changes in the Act should require extensive research into both voter turnout and states' election procedures.

"All voters, regardless of race or color, deserve an open and fair election process. Your County Democratic Party works tirelessly to assist voters through this process."

Statement from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton:

"At a time when Phoenix has a growing and more diverse population, we should be doing more to protect civil rights, including voting rights. Today's Supreme Court decision is a step in the wrong direction. It strikes down a measure that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. I urge Congress to update the Voting Rights Act in a way that secures every American's right to vote."

Statement from U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar:

"Today's Supreme Court decision is an encouraging step toward restoring constitutional order. The Supreme Court recognized that states have the ability to run fair elections and today's political realities do not justify such an assault on federalism."

Statement from Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema:

"I am disappointed in today's decision. Our country was founded on principles of democratic participation and the Voting Rights Act has functioned for years as a critical tool in ensuring that right to participation. For decades, the Voting Rights Act has stymied efforts of politicians seeking to thwart democracy in action, to influence the outcome of elections, or to deny full participation in democracy.

"Congress should work together to swiftly pass legislation restoring the critical protections and safeguards that have protected every American's right to vote over the last fifty years."

Statement from Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona in Action:

"To organizations like Promise Arizona in Action that work every day to empower traditionally disenfranchised Latino voters, the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 4B of the Voting Rights Act is a great disappointment, but also a call to action to work even harder against the seemingly daily barrage of attacks against our right to fully participate in our democracy.

"It is precisely because our community has begun to assert itself more forcefully at the polls that some in Arizona and across the country, especially in the Republican Party, are trying to stifle our voice. We won't let that happen. Arizona's track record and its newest election bill, HB 2305, prove that discrimination remains a real problem at the polls, but we will not be silenced. Our votes and our voices will be heard."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.