WASHINGTON – Today, a broad coalition of civil rights, labor, and progressive leaders launched the VRA for Today Coalition with a petition signed by more than 500,000 Americans who strongly support restoring the Voting Rights Act and protecting all voters from discrimination. Before the announcement, advocates went to Speaker Boehner’s Longworth House Office Building office during normal business hours to deliver the names of the 500,000 petition signers but were met by a locked door.
With the Supreme Court’s misguided and destructive decision last year in Shelby County v. Holder, voters will head to the polls in November with the weakest protections against voting discrimination in half a century. Yet Congress has failed to act—despite having a bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act drafted and ready to be debated and moved forward.
The half a million Americans and leading organizations involved in the VRA for Today Coalition stand together in an ongoing fight to restore the Voting Rights Act, with support that will only continue to grow after today’s launch.
Below are quotes from the leaders of some organizations involved in the VRA for Today Coalition. To learn more, visit www.VRA4Today.org.
Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“Today, the Speaker’s office was closed to voting rights. This is symbolic of how House Leadership has ignored voters who are being discriminated against right now. Since the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act was introduced in January, the House has not held a single hearing on the bill. We urge the Speaker and his leadership team to heed the voices of the petition signers and millions of other Americans. We will not tolerate a country that allows voters to be discriminated against based on their race. We are standing up for the right to vote and calling on Congress to protect voters from discrimination.”
Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office
“We urge Speaker Boehner to not let this be the first election in America in 50 years without robust protections for voters of color. That would be a shameful legacy as this Congress adjourns. Congress must pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act now.”
Samer Khalaf, President, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
“Racial discrimination in voting is a reality that merits an urgent response. It is time for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act and restore the important voter protections that were crippled by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder last year.
Every day that Congress fails to act, voters are in danger, and so is the most fundamental right in our democracy. If the right to vote is threatened, the integrity of our entire democracy is also threatened. The time to act is now. ADC calls on Congress to restore the VRA today.”
Mee Moua, President & Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
“Every day that Congress fails to act to address the Shelby decision, voters are vulnerable to discrimination. This is true especially for Asian Americans, the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. that is also rapidly growing in states and localities historically covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – states such as Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Over half a million people, including many Asian Americans, are demanding that Congress once again provides strong protections against voter discrimination by restoring the Voting Rights Act. It’s time for Congress to act on the people’s will.”
Hadar Susskind, Director, Bend the Arc Jewish Action
“American Jews, like many people of faith, believe that America can and should live up to the ideals of fairness, justice, and democracy implicit in its founding. This willful negligence by Congress is an insult to that legacy. Failing to protect the voting rights of millions of Americans is immoral. Bend the Arc members and other Jews across the country have signed this petition to demand that Congress fulfill its obligations and pass the VRAA.”
Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel, Washington, D.C. office of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
“The Voting Rights Act was a promise that no citizen would be denied the right to vote based on race. A generation later, our nation is in danger of reneging on that promise. Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans made clear that Congress must act to restore this key protection before the November election. It’s time to move on this bipartisan bill.”
Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, ColorOfChange.org
“The historic onslaught of attacks following the Shelby v. Holder decision in previously covered states demonstrates the clear need for immediate action by Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. With the election in November, politicians need to know that if they want our support, they must protect everyone’s freedom to vote and pass the VRAA.”
Miles Rapoport, President, Common Cause
“The right to vote is the foundation of American democracy. It must be upheld. For nearly 50 years, Americans relied on the Voting Rights Act to safeguard this precious right, particularly in states where voters of color traditionally faced barriers in exercising it. Now that the Supreme Court has tossed aside a critical section of the law, states across the country – not just those previously covered by the Act – are passing laws and adopting policies designed to erect new barriers and shut millions of our citizens out of the political process. In addition to being fundamentally un-American, this systematic exclusion from democratic participation contributes to Washington’s inability to address critical economic, social and environmental issues, among others. We must do better. With the Voting Rights Amendment Act, drafted to comply with the Court’s mandate and endorsed by Democrats and Republicans alike, we can get back on track. Common Cause urges Congress to pass this needed law and ensure that every American has fair access to the polls. It’s the right thing to do.”
Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager, CREDO Action
“Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act last year, Republicans in states around the country have rushed to pass voter suppression laws in an attempt to steal elections. Congress should pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act now to restore one of our best tools for defending the right to vote.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
“Until the Voting Rights Amendment Act is passed and signed, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will continue its forward march toward ensuring that Congress continues its 50-year tradition of protecting the fundamental principle of our democracy.”
Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)
“Our democracy thrives when all its citizens are able to participate fully in the nation’s political system. We are proud to sign on to this petition of support and call on Congress to promote policies that make voting and registering to vote more accessible to the nation’s second largest population group and all qualified U.S. citizens.”
Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
“More than half a million people are speaking out today to say that no American should be left unprotected from voting discrimination. It’s time for Congress to listen to those voices and restore the Voting Rights Act. We have to safeguard every person’s right to participate in our democracy. Otherwise, the fundamental promise of ‘one person, one vote’ becomes hollow.”
Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU
“Every day Congress fails to protect the right to vote, it gives a free pass to voting discrimination. Working people call on Congress to fulfill the promise of equal rights under our Constitution, restore voting rights and strengthen any new voting rights bill so that it protects all voters.”