Target: Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Goal: Reinstate voting rights protections for minorities in the U.S.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, dealt a devastating blow to the right to vote in America. The Court, ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruled that Section 4 which required Justice Department-approved preclearance for redistricting or voting laws in states with histories of racial discrimination was invalid.
The Court’s rationale for its decision was that Section 4’s existing preclearance requirements-which covered states that used ballot tests or had less than half of voting-eligible adults registered by November 1964-were dated and not suitable for the current social climate of 2013. What this means is that the federal government no longer has the capability to enforce equal ballot access and prevent voter suppression on the state level. In the aftermath of the decision on Section 4, Texas announced it would immediately begin implementing a voter ID law previously ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court as creating “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor.”
These concerns led John Lewis, Georgia Representative and civil rights activist, to state that the Court had “put a dagger in the heart” of a law which “helped liberate not just a people but a nation.” Already, there has been talk in Congress of doing something to update the law. The Raw Story, in a June 27 article, noted California Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi as calling for a new “John Lewis Voting Rights Act” which would replace the now-dated Section 4 of the 1965 VRA.
The right to vote is the foundation of American democracy and must be held firmly above political games, especially in a partisan Congressional environment. Congress must work together to renew the promise that Rep. John Lewis and other civil rights activists fought for and repair the Supreme Court’s damage through a new Section 4 protecting equal access to the ballot for all.
Dear Speaker of the House John Boehner & Senate Majority leader Harry Reid,
The tragic decision by the Supreme Court to invalidate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 must be answered by Congressional action. At present, with no preclearance requirements, states are able to engage in voter suppression measures without oversight by the federal government. For instance, Texas has announced it is beginning implementation of a Voter ID law previously ruled unconstitutional as adversely affecting the poor.
State voter suppression laws like the one in Texas, made in the interest of partisan political goals, contrast with the foundational American value of equal rights for all citizens including at the ballot box. The federal government’s newfound inability to halt abuses such as this openly damages this basic ideal of our nation’s republican system of government.
I am asking you to work together to ensure that a newly updated VRA Section 4 becomes a reality. Such a bipartisan effort would show that ending voter suppression and protecting the right of the people to vote is truly an American principle that goes beyond partisan politics.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia