UPHOLD THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

Good morning. I am Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States. Joining me here on stage is Barbara Zia, the president of our South Carolina League.

The League was founded 93 years ago to finish the fight for woman’s suffrage.

For decades, we’ve fought against anti-democratic forces, against those that have sought to keep our fellow citizens from the polls and for a strong and true democracy that is free, fair and accessible to all eligible voters.

Today, the threat to these key principles is real and growing. Anti-voter legislation has swept the country, putting the very foundation of our democracy at risk by erecting new barriers to the polls, restricting voter registration efforts, shortening voting periods and illegally purging voter lists.

Without the Voting Rights Act, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens could have had their voices silenced last year and their votes would not have been counted.

Shelby v. Holder, is the most important voting rights case to reach the high court in decades.

The enormity of this threat cannot be overstated. The importance of the outcome of this case cannot be overstated. We are here today to sound the alarm and call on the Court to protect our democracy. The voices of our fellow citizens must not be silenced.

While we’ve made immense progress to expand the right to vote, so much remains to be done, especially as the American electorate continues to diversify. The recent onslaught of anti-voter state legislation further fuels the urgency and need for Section 5 as the tool to keep our elections free, fair and accessible.

Section 5 has helped transform American democracy from a restricted, segregated past to one of remarkable inclusion. Today, the VRA continues to play a vital role in protecting voters from very real barriers that threaten to keep eligible voters from the polls.  In their work protecting voters, our Leagues have used Section 5 as a critical safeguard.  They know from first-hand experience how important Section 5 is to protecting the rights of all voters.

Surely, the problems exposed by the 2012 elections—long lines, shortened early voting hours, and more-- should be an impetus for the Court to more fully enforce the laws that protect our voting rights, not take them away. The thought that the Supreme Court might overrule Congress, and take away voting rights should send a chill down the spine of every American. 

I’d like to invite Barbara Zia to make just a few comments about her recent experience in fighting restrictive election laws in South Carolina.

Remarks as delivered by Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. at a rally to protect the VRA held on February 27, 2013 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Thank you, Elisabeth. 

In South Carolina, we know first-hand the need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The right to vote in South Carolina, as it is in many states, is under attack.

In South Carolina, the VRA is an essential tool we have used to defeat legislation that would have silenced the voices of thousands of our fellow citizens – legislation that would have a disproportionate impact on minority voters.

South Carolina, indeed the entire country, has struggled for decades to expand the right to vote. The day may come when we, as a nation, are free from targeted discrimination relating to the right to vote, but unfortunately today is not that day.

Step-by-step we have marched forward in strengthening our great democracy. It has been difficult at times and there have been set backs along the way. That is why we have all come together today to call on the Court to support the VRA.

Today must be the day that we continue to move forward toward a more perfect union and not backwards to the discriminatory history of our past.

Those who argue Section 5 is no longer necessary need look no further than my home state of South Carolina. Using Section 5, the League along with our partners were able to battle back and overturn a discriminatory voter ID law. This successful application of Section 5 demonstrates the law’s potency in protecting minority voters and the courts’ flexibility and restraint in applying Section 5 to covered states.

The VRA protected the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians and in doing so protected the very foundation of our great democracy - our right to vote and have our votes counted.

Remarks as delivered by Barbara Zia, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina at a rally to protect the VRA held on February 27, 2013 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.