August 6 marks the 51st Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Here at LWVUS, we are taking the day to celebrate our recent voting rights victories and recommit to our important work on voting rights around the country at all levels of government.
Recent hard-fought victories in challenges to laws in Kansas, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin, are not just milestones for advocates but, far more important, the millions of voters whose rights have been threatened. The League's own victory in North Carolina last week, found the state acted with discriminatory intent when it passed sweeping voter suppression legislation. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina had been fighting this law since 2013. Last week’s victory bars the state from requiring photo IDs at the polls and orders the state to restore a week of early voting and pre-registration, as well as maintain same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The ruling is a win for voters that ensures politicians have no business standing in the way of our right to vote.
Multiple federal courts have now made clear that the nation’s most restrictive photo voter ID laws and other barriers to the vote were passed with discriminatory intent, for the purpose of suppressing the voices of voters. But there’s no denying the fact without the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, these laws never would have been implemented in the first place. The Shelby decision opened the floodgates to the expansion of discriminatory voting laws across the country.
We’ve had three years of bad laws that make voting harder in states all across the country. But there is a solution. The Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced to address the voting discrimination unleashed in the wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision. Yet the legislation has stalled on both sides of Congress.
It is an unfortunate fact that discrimination in voting against racial, ethnic and language minorities continues in America. No matter our political leanings, this should be unacceptable to all elected leaders of the greatest democracy in the world.
As citizens we must call on Congress to repair and modernize the Voting Rights Act TODAY! Without congressional action to repair the VRA, 2016 will mark the first presidential election in 50 years without its full protections. Despite our recent victories, discrimination in voting still exists in our country. It is imperative that Congress act to put protections back into place to ensure that Americans across the country have equal opportunity to access the polls and vote in this pivotal election.