The Voting Rights Act Remains Critical Safeguard of the Right to Vote

Washington, D.C. (February 27, 2013)  – Today, Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S., joined civil rights leaders, members of Congress and activists on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to speak out in support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  This morning the court heard arguments in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case that examines the constitutionality of Section 5 of the VRA, landmark legislation that outlaws racial discrimination in state voting practices, and its critical enforcement mechanism.

“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,” said MacNamara. “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.”

“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,” MacNamara added.

“Section 5 has helped transform American democracy from a restricted, segregated past to one of remarkable inclusion,” said MacNamara.  “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 so that the voices of our fellow citizens are not silenced.”

In their work protecting voters, Leagues around the country have used Section 5 as a critical safeguard to protect the rights of all voters.  The League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina have submitted amicus briefs in this case and were present at the hearings in Washington, DC.

“For those who argue Section 5 is no longer necessary need look no further than my home state of South Carolina,” said Barbara Zia, President of the South Carolina LWV.  “Using Section 5, the League and our partners were able to battle back and overturn a discriminatory voter ID law. 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.”

“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,” concluded MacNamara.  “The thought that the Supreme Court might overrule Congress, and take away voting rights should send a chill down the spine of every American.”

Contact Kelly Ceballos at kceballos@lwv.org to find out more or to schedule an interview.