The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.
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August 6, 2013 marks the 48th anniversary of the signing into law of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), widely recognized as one of the nation's most effective civil rights statutes. A key part of the VRA, known as Section 4, was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
Through its decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court erased fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting that have been effective for decades. Only strong action from Congress can fix the Court's mistake, and that is exactly what we are advocating.
More than forty years after the civil rights movement, the VRA continues to play a vital role in preventing discriminatory voting measures. Section 4 of the VRA helped the U.S. Department of Justice block over 700 racially discriminatory voting measures between 1982 and 2006. Upon its last reauthorization in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress declared that without the VRA's protections, "racial and language minority citizens will be deprived of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote."
The impact of the Supreme Court's decision on voters will be significant and far-reaching, This decision will only embolden those who seek to create barriers to voters' rights.
Before the ink was even dry on the decision, several states rushed to implement anti-voter laws that will negatively impact all voters, young and old, rich and poor alike. These activities are underway in several states where the League of Women Voters had previously succeeded in blocking voter restrictions in the courts and state legislatures. Sadly, this is only the beginning. Without a strong VRA, our ability to fight off anti-voter legislation and keep our elections free, fair and accessible is significantly weakened.
We will be advocating for Congress to fix this issue -- to restore the VRA to its full strength. This anniversary should be a call to action by those who believe in free and fair access by every eligible voter.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. VOTE411.org is the place to go for the election information you need.