Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF): Other Actions
Voter rights and participation are two areas in which MALDEF has been involved since 1970. MALDEF joined forces with the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project to litigate voting inequities. The two organizations filed 88 suits and successfully lobbied to ensure that the 1975 extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 included Spanish-surnamed citizens in the Southwest. In November 2006, MALDEF defended the voting rights of Latinos in Orange County, California; Tucson, Arizona; and Texas. In an Orange County case, a legislative candidate mailed a letter to 14,000 registered Spanish-surnamed voters. The letter, which was written in Spanish, falsely stated that immigrants were not allowed to vote and that there was no benefit to voting in American elections. While eligible naturalized immigrants may freely participate in American elections, the real intent of the letter was to intimidate Latino voters. MALDEF contacted the attorney general providing notification of the voter intimidation effort and instigated an investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Division.
In another 2006 U.S. civil rights incident, MALDEF witnessed anti-immigrant activists aggressively intimidating Latino voters at the election polls, pushing a video camera in front of approaching Latino voters and requesting personal information. As it does with most American civil rights incidents, MALDEF refers these incidents to the United States Attorney and the U.S. Office for Civil Rights. In its litigation, MALDEF works cooperatively with organizations such as the NAACP, the ACLU, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). In 2006, LULAC and MALDEF worked cooperatively in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry as Nina Perales, a MALDEF attorney, successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the redistricting plan from Texas amounted to a vote dilution plan in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In addition to these voting rights cases, MALDEF has argued school board and other redistricting claims throughout the United States. In fact, MALDEF attorneys have argued five cases before the Supreme Court.