Our Democracy Works Most Effectively When Everyone Has Equal Access to the Ballot Box
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act (VRA), transformative legislation that created robust federal oversight to address racial discrimination in elections and voting practices. For decades, voters of color had the full protection of the VRA, before the disastrous 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The law proved to be an essential tool to expose discriminatory voting practices, block voter suppression laws, and help voters of color across the country to access the ballot box.
The following is a statement from Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy yet, for much of our country’s history, Black voters and other voters of color were denied that right. The United States was not a representative democracy until the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which enabled voters of color to finally have full access to the ballot box and make their voices heard. Only then, did our elected officials begin to represent the entire nation, and the will of all its people.
“But over the past decade, we have seen the Supreme Court severely weaken the Voting Rights Act. First, in Shelby County v. Holder, the court gutted that portion of the Voting Rights Act that had prevented voting laws from taking effect until approved by the Department of Justice or a federal court as not making it harder for voters of color to vote. Just last month, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee the court made it more difficult for voters of color to prove that anti-voting laws have a discriminatory impact. Together, these two decisions invite state legislators to create new schemes that make it harder for people of color to vote – we have already seen dozens of state legislatures try, with some passing laws that do just that.
“In the face of these efforts to roll back the clock on democracy, we continue to push for strong federal laws that will protect the right to vote. At a time when the right to vote is under attack in nearly every state across the country, every voter and every elected official of conscience must do everything in their power to make their voices heard and their demands clear. We need robust federal oversight to make certain every American has the freedom to vote, and that the anti-voter politicians who are destroying the fabric of our democracy are stopped in their tracks.
“The time to act is now.”