Posted on July 10, 2015
Petition: Fix the Voting Rights Act now
Fifty years ago this summer, at the height of the civil rights movement, Congress passed and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act to prohibit racial discrimination in voting. The law wasn’t perfect, but it frequently stopped states with a history of discriminatory voting laws from preventing African-Americans and Latinos from voting.
But In 2013, the right-wing ideologues on the United States Supreme Court handed down a shameful decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act, ending decades of protection for minorities against discriminatory and unfair attempts to limit voting based on one’s race.
Progressive champions in Congress have just introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the Voting Rights Act and stop Republicans in states around the country from enacting racist voter ID and voter suppression laws. We need to keep the pressure on Congress to crack down on racial discrimination in voting.
While the Supreme Court didn’t invalidate Section 5, a key part of the Voting Rights Act, it threw out the basic formula that has been used practically since the bill’s passage in 1965 to determine where the Justice Department must provide approval before local election rules that would suppress the votes of African-American and Latino citizens can be put into effect. Voter suppression rules can still be challenged by the Department of Justice after the fact, but this often happens too late to prevent minority voters from being blocked from the polls. The court’s decision effectively guts the Voting Rights Act, rendering it useless until Congress updates the coverage formula for Section 5.
Republicans didn’t waste any time in taking advantage of this ruling for electoral gain. Within hours of Supreme Court’s decision, several states in the South immediately announced that they would pursue onerous new voter ID laws that were clearly designed to make it harder for African-Americans and Latinos to vote.
All told, 395 voting restrictions have been passed at the state and local levels in the past five years alone.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act is the strongest voting rights bill ever introduced in the United States Congress. It would require states with a history of recent voting discrimination to clear changes to voting laws with the Department of Justice, require any new state voter ID laws are reviewed and approved by the federal government, and block new efforts to suppress African-American and Latino votes.
Crucially, the bill would also give the U.S. Attorney General the authority to send federal election observers to monitor elections in which there’s a risk of voting discrimination.
If Congress doesn’t act, the 2016 election will be the first presidential election in 50 years in which voters don’t have the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. We need to pressure Congress to act now to stop racial discrimination in voting.