Posted on January 28, 2016
It’s time to fix the Voting Rights Act
In 2013, the right-wing ideologues on the 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 on the basis of race.
Congress should have acted immediately to fix the damage inflicted by the Court – but more than two years later it hasn’t done a thing.Now, more than 50 years after civil rights activists put their lives on the line for the right to vote, state legislatures across the country are still passing laws to disenfranchise American voters.
Fortunately, progressive champions in Congress are promoting legislation that will restore the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would stop Republicans, in states around the country, from enacting racist voter ID and voter suppression laws. With key federal, state and local elections taking place this November, we need to speak out now, demanding Congress crack down on racial discrimination in voting.
The Supreme Court threw out the Voting Rights Act’s basic formula that had been used to determine where the Justice Department must provide pre-approval of local election rules that could suppress the votes of African-American and Latino citizens. Voter suppression rules can still be challenged by the Department of Justice after the fact, but “after the fact” often means minority voters have already been blocked from the polls. The court’s decision effectively guts the Voting Rights Act, rendering it nearly useless unless Congress updates the coverage formula for Section 5.
Republicans wasted no time taking advantage of this ruling for electoral gain. Within hours of the 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.
This year, over 100 progressive, civil rights, and social justice organizations have joined together to form a coalition that will push for fundamental reforms in voting rights and campaign finance as part of a year-long campaign called Democracy Awakening. We’re supporting the efforts of these groups, which include the NAACP, Public Citizen, MoveOn.org, and the National Organization for Women, by putting Congress on notice right now that fixing our democracy will be a top priority for 2016.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act would establish the strongest voting rights laws ever passed by 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 to be 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.
Thanks for fighting to protect and expand voting rights.