Efforts to rebuild the Voting Rights Act are underway following major Supreme Court rulings that weakened the law. The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 has now been introduced in both houses of Congress. The Human Rights Campaign follows this issue closely and provides the following summary:
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court delivered a huge blow to civil rights in Shelby County v. Holder by declaring a key provision in the Voting Right Act (VRA) unconstitutional. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, states and localities have brazenly pushed forward discriminatory changes to voting practices, such as changing district boundaries to disadvantage select voters, instituting more onerous voter identification laws, and changing polling locations with little notice. These laws especially disenfranchise people of color, the elderly, low-income people, and people with disabilities. Voters are more vulnerable to discrimination now than at any time since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law more than fifty years ago.
Within the LGBTQ community, people of color, LGBTQ youth, and transgender individuals are often the most impacted by weakened voting rights laws. A recent poll found that African-American and Latino voters were three times as likely as white voters to report trouble finding their polling place. With one-third of transgender people reporting having no government identification that reflects their gender identity, voter ID laws often forcibly “out” transgender voters to poll workers, putting them at risk for discrimination and harassment.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement on the bicameral introduction of the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA):
“Our voice is heard through our fundamental right to vote. When policymakers erect barriers to the ballot box and silence that voice, our government fails us. The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) would restore the Voting Rights Act and ensure all eligible voters can make their voice heard free from racial discrimination.
“Attacks on the voting rights of people of color have long plagued our country. Five justices on the Supreme Court gutted the protections of the Voting Rights Act in the disastrous 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. Since then, politicians interested in shrinking the electorate for personal, partisan gain have pursued strict photo ID laws, unlawful voter purges, voter registration restrictions, polling place closures, and other obstacles to silence communities of color. Congress must thoroughly examine the continuing problem of racial discrimination in our election system and then pass the VRAA to build a 21st century democracy that works for everyone.”
At the same time another non-profit advocacy group, The Human Rights Campaign, is also calling on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR4). HRC President Chad Griffin wrote, “Across the country, there are concerted efforts to strip voting rights from marginalized Americans, especially people of color.” According to him:
“The Voting Rights Advancement Act is a crucial step toward ensuring the voting rights of all Americans are restored and fully protected. Full equality will not be achieved until we halt the systematic efforts to restrict access to the ballot box, disenfranchise voters and undermine our democracy. HRC will stand in coalition across social justice movements to restore crucial voting rights protections for all Americans.”