Category Archives: Editorials

For press inquiries, please contact Shin Inouye at inouye@civilrights.org.

Voting Rights Advocates Sound Alarm for 2016 Election on Shelby County v. Holder Anniversary

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New Report Highlights Voter Suppression in Competitive 2016 Election States

WASHINGTON – Today, voting rights advocates and voters hosted a press call to discuss the impact of the Shelby County v. Holder decision on the 2016 presidential election and to kick off a week of action to restore the Voting Rights Act in advance of the third anniversary of Shelby, which falls on June 25.

Click here to listen to an MP3 of the call.

On the call, participants released a new report, Warning Signs, which profiles voter suppression activities in states that were once covered by Section 5 of the VRA and are host to competitive 2016 contests for 84 Electoral College votes, two Senate seats, and one governor’s seat. The report finds that, since Shelby, all five of these states – North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia – have engaged in deceptive and sophisticated practices to disenfranchise voters that will have an impact on the 2016 election. The report is a collaborative effort of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and relies on recent reports and materials from the ACLU, the Advancement Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the NALEO Educational Fund.

Click here to download a PDF of the report.

The call also discussed a nationwide week of action to restore the VRA, endorsed by more than 140 organizations with activities in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia, Texas, and many more.

Below are key quotes from the call.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund

“There’s clearly a demand to restore the VRA. There’s also a great need. In our new report, we identified five states that have competitive contests for 84 Electoral College votes, two Senate seats, and one governor’s seat. And with the presidency and control of the Senate at stake, the temptation to shave points off of the participation rate of voters of color has proven too great to resist. Since Shelby, all five of these states – North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia – have engaged in deceptive and sophisticated efforts to disenfranchise voters that will have an impact on the 2016 election.”

Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which has played a key role in fighting voter suppression in North Carolina

“What we are seeing in North Carolina is that more people are being disenfranchised than the margin that decided our recent Governor’s election and other recent elections in our state. These voter suppression measures passed in the wake of Shelby – like ending same day registration, ending out-of-precinct voting, and others – are truly having an impact on our ability to vote. We hope that these measures will not be in place in November 2016.”

Marion Warren, Registrar of Voters for the City of Sparta in Hancock County, Georgia

“Actions taken by county officials have been completely detrimental to the minority population, and the only thing stopping them is the outcry from the public and the fact that we now have the Department of Justice looking into this. The situation in Hancock County is particularly bad – it seems it’s harder for a minority to vote now in the state of Georgia than it was in 1965.”

Monica Cooper, an Arizona voter disenfranchised during the 2016 primary and a plaintiff in a voting rights lawsuit against Arizona and Maricopa County

“On Election Day, I depended on Dial-a-Ride [a paratransit service] to get to and from the polling place, and was not able to vote because the lines were so long it took over two hours to get inside the polling place. I am very angry that I was not able to cast my ballot and that I was left out on Election Day.”

Juliana Huerena, another plaintiff in a voting rights lawsuit against Arizona and Maricopa County

“I’ve been voting in Maricopa County for nearly 10 years and I’ve never seen lines like this before. The line wrapped around the building. It was important to me to wait and cast my ballot, but I saw many people get frustrated after waiting for hours and eventually leave without voting. In the end, I waited four and a half hours to cast my ballot.”

Americans across the Country Call on Congress to Restore the VRA in 50th Anniversary Month

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / LINK
August 4, 2015
Contact: Scott Simpson, 202.466.2061, Simpson@civilrights.org

WASHINGTON On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, concerned citizens all over the country are calling on Congress to restore the crucial protections of the VRA that were lost in the Supreme Court’s destructive Shelby County v. Holder decision to gut the landmark civil rights law. Advocates are participating in voting rights events in every region of the U.S.

In the two years since the Shelby decision, nearly half of the 50 states have enacted policies that make it harder to vote. A surge of discriminatory voter ID requirements and laws eliminating early voting opportunities have deprived Americans of their fundamental right, and have had an especially harmful effect on people of color, low-income communities, people with disabilities, and students.

Despite public outcry and widespread evidence of voter discrimination, Congress has shirked from its constitutional obligation to protect the right to vote. Unless Congress acts, voters in 2016 will face the first presidential election in half a century where they lack crucial protections in federal law to combat racial discrimination in voting. Congress now has two bills—the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Voting Rights Amendment Act—to use as vehicles to restore the VRA. Congress has no excuses for failing to act.

Quote from Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:

“Fifty years ago, Congress made history and came together across party lines to enact our nation’s most effective civil rights law. From California to Georgia, Alabama to New York, Americans are demanding that Congress protect their right to vote. As we commemorate the VRA and honor those who fought so hard for it, we also lament that Americans have the weakest voting protections than at any time in the last 50 years. When Congress returns to Washington this fall, its first order of business must be to restore the VRA.”

Editorial Memo: On 50th Anniversary of the VRA, Congress Must Protect the Right to Vote

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Dear Editors,

This Thursday, August 6, will mark 50 years since our nation’s most effective civil rights law was signed into law. For most of that time, the Voting Rights Act helped ensure that every eligible citizen, regardless of race, had the opportunity to freely participate in elections and have a voice in our great democracy. However, on this historic anniversary, the fundamental right to vote is in more danger than at any time in the last half century due to the Supreme Court’s destructive Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013 to gut the law.

This week, civil rights and voting rights groups are hosting events all across the country commemorating the 50th anniversary of the VRA and calling on Congress to restore the law’s crucial protections. On August 6, members of Congress from both parties will publicly honor the law and the brave Americans who fought for it, but many of them have done nothing to restore it.

We encourage you to write about the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act to highlight the need for lawmakers to act in a bipartisan fashion on legislation to restore the protections of the VRA, and to hold those who ignore this need accountable for their willful indifference to modern day voting discrimination.

About the Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, Congress made history when it came together across party lines to ensure the right to vote for every American. Inspired by the courage of the Selma marchers, Congress worked quickly to pass the VRA. The work to protect Americans from voter discrimination has been bipartisan for the last 50 years. Every reauthorization of the VRA was passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, and signed into law by presidents like Ronald Regan, and, most recently, George W. Bush in 2006.

The Unraveling of the VRA Legacy in the Aftermath of Shelby v. Holder

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law on August 6, 1965, the VRA has been an indispensable tool for combating voter discrimination, and a fitting tribute to the courageous Selma marchers. The VRA honored the dignity of the brave Americans who risked and gave their lives to secure the right to vote. For the first time, millions of minority voters were able to exercise their constitutional right to participate in elections.

The law ended literacy tests, poll taxes, and other intentionally discriminatory mechanisms. In the 21st century, the VRA has been used to combat modern voting discrimination in the form of inequitable redistricting plans, restrictive voter ID laws, artificial barriers to voting, elimination of early voting opportunities, and unfair polling place changes.

But the civil rights legacy of the VRA and the Selma heroes has been unraveled by the voting discrimination that has flourished since the Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013. In the two years since the Shelby decision, voter discrimination has run rampant throughout the country, casting a dark shadow over the democracy on which our nation so prides itself—and to which other countries look to as an example. As soon as the Shelby decision was handed down, states and localities rushed to push through discriminatory laws that make it harder to vote. Voter ID laws and the elimination of early voting opportunities have been enacted all over the country and have had an especially harmful effect on people of color, low-income communities, people with disabilities and students. On the 50th anniversary of a law that was designed to expand and protect access to the ballot, nearly half of our 50 states have enacted policies restricting it.

Congress Must Act Now to Restore the VRA

Despite public outcry and widespread evidence of voter discrimination, Congress has failed to restore the protections of the VRA. For two years, members of Congress have dragged their feet on this issue and shirked from their constitutional obligation to protect the cornerstone of our democracy. If Congress doesn’t act soon, voters in 2016 will face the first presidential election in 50 years without crucial protections in federal law to combat voter discrimination.

Congress now has two bills—the Voting Rights Amendment Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act—to use to restore the VRA. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., recently said that it is time for an “overall review” of the issue, and that he would like to see debate on voting rights legislation go forward. However, many of his Republican colleagues—including House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.—have failed to even acknowledge the reality of voter discrimination and the need for a restored VRA.

Every lawmaker should make restoring the VRA a priority, especially those who publicly pays tribute to the law and the Selma marchers this Thursday. Congress must work to restore the law upon returning to Washington. Failing to do so betrays the legacy of the Selma marchers, the American people, and our democracy.
We encourage you to write or editorialize about this issue. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Scott Simpson for more information at 202.466.2061 or Simpson@civilrights.org.

Advocates to Rally in Roanoke for Voting Rights and Democracy on Shelby Anniversary

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Rep. Goodlatte and Congress Urged to Restore the Voting Rights Act

For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Simpson, 202.466.2061, simpson@civilrights.org
June 16, 2015

ROANOKE— On Thursday, June 25, hundreds of concerned Americans will join civil rights and voting rights advocates in Roanoke, Virginia’s Elmwood Park to mark the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision to gut the Voting Rights Act. Attendees will rally to defend the right to vote and to support a restoration of the Voting Rights Act. The rally will be attended by a large contingent of Roanoke-area residents who will be joined by buses and vans from Richmond and Tidewater, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

Quote from Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:

“In this 50th anniversary year of the Voting Rights Act, voters are more vulnerable to discrimination than at any time since the law was first passed in 1965. Congressional leadership has yet to act on restoring the law and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who represents part of Roanoke and chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has yet to take action to protect voters from discrimination in Virginia and throughout the nation.

“Despite public outcry since the Shelby decision, Rep. Goodlatte has refused to even acknowledge widespread voting discrimination or to allow a hearing in his committee. Virginians currently live under racially gerrymandered districts; they understand that protecting voting rights for all means holding Congress and Rep. Goodlatte accountable for ignoring the responsibility to act.”

Participating organizations include the following national organizations alongside their state and local chapters: The Leadership Conference, Democracy Initiative, NAACP, NAACP Voter Fund, Communications Workers of America, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, Human Rights Campaign, Common Cause, Sierra Club, Asian Americans Advancing Justice—AAJC, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Japanese American Citizens League, LULAC, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, League of Women Voters, NALEO, AFT, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Black Justice Coalition, National Action Network, People for the American Way, AFL-CIO, National LGBTQ Task Force, SEIU, and others.

Media can RSVP to Scott Simpson at Simpson@civilrights.org. Members of the media from the DC, Richmond, Tidewater, areas are welcome to travel to Roanoke with rally participants.

More information is available at www.VRAforToday.org.

Rally Details:

WHERE: Elmwood Park in Roanoke, Virginia

WHEN: Thursday, June 25 – Pre-Rally Program begins at 12:00pm / Rally begins at 1:00pm

Confirmed Speakers Include [List in Formation]:

  • Wade Henderson, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Arturo Vargas, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund
  • Priscilla Ouchida, Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL)
  • Cornell William Brooks, NAACP
  • Larry Cohen, CWA
  • Stosh Cotler, Bend the Arc
  • Brenda Hale, Roanoke Branch, NAACP
  • Tanya Clay House, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Rev. William Barber, NAACP
  • Rev. Leslie Malachi, African American Ministers in Action, People for the American Way
  • VA State Senator John Edwards
  • Aaron Mair, Board President, Sierra Club
  • Miles Rapoport, Common Cause
  • Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
  • Hector Sanchez, Hispanic Leadership Council/LCLAA
  • Sindy Benevidez, LULAC
  • Terry Ao Minnis, Asian Americans Advancing Justice / AAJC
  • Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO
  • Rabbi Kathy Cohen, Temple Emmanuel, Roanoke
  • Rabbi Michael Namath, Religious Action Center
  • Janaye Ingraham, National Action Network
  • J. Walter Tejada, Arlington Co. Board Vice Chairman
  • Rebecca Shankman, League of Women Voters of VA and Roanoke, VA
  • Kirk Jones, A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI) VA
  • Tom Calhoun, Norfolk Federation of Teachers
  • Dana Jackson, Blue Ridge Independent Living Center, National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
  • Javontae McNear, VA NAACP Youth and College Division

Press Conference on 6/18: Leading Up to Shelby Decision Anniversary, Unity Between Civil Rights Groups and Tri-Caucus Continues on Voting Rights

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WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, June 18 at 1:30 p.m. EDT, Tri-Caucus members and civil rights leaders will host a press conference on the Hill reaffirming their unified support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

This press conference kicks off the most important week in voting rights, with the approaching one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder and corresponding first Senate hearing on June 25 and the upcoming 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act. At the press conference, prominent figures in voting rights today will stand together to discuss why this is the critical time for action, and call on the House to advance the VRAA now to protect voters before they go to the polls in November.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 18, 1:30 p.m.

WHO:

  • Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
  • Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
  • Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)
  • Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Lorraine Miller, interim president and CEO of the NAACP
  • Mee Moua, president and CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
  • Brent Wilkes, executive director of LULAC
  • Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters

WHAT: Press conference to call for congressional action on the Voting Rights Amendment Act

WHERE: 2226 Rayburn House Office Building

RSVP: Simpson@civilrights.org or 202.466.2061

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Virginia NAACP, LULAC, & League of Women Voters Call on Congressmen Goodlatte and Cantor to Move Forward on Voting Rights Amendment Act

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Groups Take Out Full Page Ads in Roanoke Times and Richmond Times-Dispatch

 

VIRGINIA – Tomorrow, local chapters of civil rights and voting groups are taking out full page ads in the Roanoke Times and Richmond Times-Dispatch calling on their members of Congress to move the congressional process forward on the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

The ads, which were taken out in collaboration with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, highlight the unique influence that Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Eric Cantor have over the future of the VRAA, which would update and modernize the landmark Voting Rights Act to protect voters from discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Shelby County v. Holder. As the ads state, the Voting Rights Act “has protected voters for 50 years, approved time and again by bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed into law by presidents from both parties—from Lyndon Johnson, to Ronald Reagan, to George W. Bush.”

The Roanoke Times ad (Click here for a PDF) highlights Rep. Goodlatte’s role as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where the bipartisan VRAA has been awaiting committee action since its introduction in January. The ad was sponsored by LULAC Council 4609, the League of Women Voters Lynchburg, the Virginia State Conference NAACP, the Roanoke Branch NAACP, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. It says “we are calling on Congress and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to act. A bipartisan bill has been introduced to modernize the Voting Rights Act and provide modern protection to all voters. We urge the House Judiciary Committee to advance this needed legislation, and ensure that no voter is denied his or her right to vote this November.”

VirginiaAdsPR

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ad (Click here for a PDF) highlights Rep. Cantor’s role as House Majority Leader, stating that “every day that goes by without a modern Voting Rights Act is a threat to voters everywhere. Majority Leader Cantor and Congress have the power to modernize protections for all voters. We ask them to move forward on this historic opportunity.” The ad was signed by the Virginia State Conference NAACP, LULAC Council 4609, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The Richmond Times-Dispatch buy also includes online banner ads targeting Rep. Cantors constituents.

Below are quotes from organizations who signed on to the ads:

Joan MacCallum, President of the League of Women Voters of Lynchburg

“The League of Women Voters of Lynchburg is counting on Congress to come together to restore the Voting Rights Act after a bipartisan group of legislators introduced H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. Protecting the right to vote is something that every member of Congress should be able to agree on. It has been nearly six months after the legislation was introduced and little progress has been made to keep it moving forward. Lynchburg’s own, Representative Bob Goodlatte, has the power to move this legislation to the next level as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Chairman Goodlatte, the right to vote is not about politics or the outcome of elections; it is about equality and justice. Virginians and all Americans deserve to hear a debate on this issue. We’re counting on you to move this legislation to the next level.”

Vivian Sanchez-Jones, LULAC Supporter/Community Organizer (Roanoke, VA)

“Congress must pass a Voting Rights Act Amendment that meets the needs of the 21st century. LULAC urges Chairman Goodlatte to give the VRAA real consideration and move the bill through the legislative process.  Every month, more than 52,000 young Latinos turn 18, many of whom are U.S. born citizens and eligible to vote.  LULAC believes that the cornerstone of our democracy is the right of every American citizen to vote.  Passage of an effective VRAA ensures that the right of every American to vote is respected.  It also helps to encourage greater participation, particularly for young people, who may be casting their first ballot in the next election.”

Below are recent objections to the Voting Rights Act in Virginia:

  • Northampton County (2003) – In 2003, the county proposed a redistricting plan and the realignment of voting precincts.  The benchmark plan contained two black majority districts in which black voters had been able to elect candidates of choice in two districts.  However, the proposed plan had only one such district while eliminating the ability of black voters to elect their candidates of choice in the other district.  DOJ concluded that minority voting strength was unnecessarily reduced in the county.
  • Northampton County (2003) – In 2002, the county proposed a redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors and the realignment of voting precincts.  Under the benchmark plan, black voters have been able to elect candidates of choice in three districts.  The proposed plan had no district in which black persons constitute a majority of the voting age population.  In the ten years prior to 2003, no black-preferred candidate had won in a district in which whites were a majority of the voting age population.  The analysis of electoral behavior indicated that a reduction in the black voting age population had the potential for a significant difference in the ability of black voters to elect a candidate of choice.
  • Cumberland County (2002) – The county proposed a new redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors.  At the time, District 3 was the only district in which black persons constituted a majority of the total population.  However, under the proposed plan the black population in that district would be reduced as would the black voting age population.
  • Pittsylvania County and Pittsylvania County School District (2002) – The proposed change referred to a 2001 redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education.  The county proposed a plan would have reduced the black population in the only district in which black persons were a majority of the population to below 50%.  DOJ analysis showed that the level of racial polarization in the county was extreme, such that any reduction would have called into question the continued ability of black voters to elect their candidates of choice.
  • Northampton County (2001) – The county proposed to change the method of election for the Board of Supervisors from six single-member districts to three double-member districts, as well as a new redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors, and the realignment of voting precincts.  Under the existing method of election, black voters had been able to elect candidates of their choice to office in three districts.  The proposed plan did not contain any districts in which minorities constituted a majority of the voting age population.  DOJ determined that minority voters would not have had the same opportunity under the proposed plan that they had under the existing plan to elect even two candidates of choice.

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WaPo Editorial: Voting Rights Act Fixes Should Get a Vote in the House and Senate

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“It seems like virtually everyone on Capitol Hill is interested in fixing the Voting Rights Act. But who will step up and make something happen?”

That’s the question posed in a new Washington Post editorial calling on Congress to fix the VRA. Another question: Why isn’t the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act already law?

“The usual explanation is that lawmakers have been too busy focusing on other issues,” the editorial says. But “excuses can’t justify Congress’s failure to repair the Voting Rights Act before November’s elections.”

The editorial calls on House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R. Va., to hold hearings on and mark up the bill, and on Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R. Va., to find time on the House floor to consider it.

Newspapers Around the Country Endorse Commensense Voting Rights Admendment Act

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Across the country, the bipartisan introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act is being recognized as a modern, commonsense fix to Shelby County v. Holder in its protection of the right to vote for all.

Nationally, the editorial board at The New York Times and Dewayne Wickham of Gannett Newspapers/USA Today remind us that, even though the bill is not perfect, it’s a good step forward in ensuring voters’ rights. And on BET.com, Lorraine Miller, interim president and CEO of the NAACP says that “It is time for Congress to act urgently, and with bipartisanship, to update the Voting Rights Act to ensure all citizens, no matter their race, gender or social status, have equal and unfettered access to the ballot box.”

And in the states, editorial boards throughout the nation have responded to the bill’s introduction:

California

Massachusetts

Pennsylvania

Texas

Virginia

Wisconsin

Rocky Mount Telegram: Congress Must Act to Protect Voting Rights

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The Rocky Mount Telegram, a North Carolina-based newspaper, called on lawmakers to act to protect the right of everyone to vote following the bipartisan introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act. “The legislation is a rare compromise plan crafted across party lines but faces an uncertain future in the partisan gridlock of Congress,” according to the editorial. “Voting is one of the most basic and cherished rights of a democracy, and lawmakers should act to ensure that no state or local government denies its citizens that right.”

Read the full editorial here.