EDITORIAL NOTE: This blog post was written by our intern, Rosa Oyarzabal
June 25th marked the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision Shelby County v. Holder and civil rights and voting rights groups participated in a panel on Capitol Hill to highlight the ramifications of the decision. Panelists emphasized the need to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), saying that raising the temperature for Congress around restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) in the media in the upcoming months is a “must do”. Since the Shelby decision gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act three years ago, in North Carolina and Texas alone up to 600,000 voters have been disenfranchised. Unfortunately, these numbers will climb higher which is why the League of Women Voters is fighting back against such attacks on people’s fundamental rights.
This growing urgency to restore the VRA is also heightened by the upcoming Presidential election. If Congress doesn’t pass the VRAA, the 2016 elections will be the first in 50 years without the full voter protections provided in the VRA. Since the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, seventeen states have passed new voting restrictions, ranging from strict voter photo ID laws, to early voting cutbacks, to registration restrictions. Furthermore, the Supreme Court overturned the key provision of the VRA that triggered careful review of voting changes in political jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting before they could take effect –making it harder for them to register and more difficult to vote.
The good news is, there is a way forward if Congress can take action. The League is working to spur members of Congress to work to restore the VRA. League members met with Senators and Representatives urging them to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act during Lobby Day at the LWVUS National Convention in June. While Lobby Day was successful with more than 100 meetings with lawmakers in one day on Capitol Hill, more can be done. League supporters all across the country, in conjunction with other advocacy groups, will work ensure that their Representatives take action and protect voting rights.
Work on voting rights is being done by Leagues across the country and it takes patience and constant effort to get the work done. Leagues have proved to be very imaginative and resilient, always coming up with new ways in which to push forward with our mission. In particular, LWV of Texas, Florida, and Kansas were recognized during the panel as effective examples of successfully protecting the rights of all voters. As Justice Ginsburg said, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” With that in mind, and with reinforced strength, the members of League of Women Voters will keep fighting to protect the rights of all voters!