Today the US Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voters Rights Act (VRA). The Voters Rights Act was created because some communities were violating voters rights by creating rules to prohibit voters. These rules ranged from poll taxes to testing requirements for registration. In section 4 of the VRA some communities were mandated to get pre-authorization prior to making changes to their voter registration process and voting restrictions.
The Communication Workers of America summed it up nicely in a brief statement:
"It wasn’t in 1956 that the community of Calera, Ala., attempted to restrict the vote and the voice of its African-American citizens. It was just seven years ago, in 2006."Many of the challenges voters face now, is the creation of Voter ID laws. These laws are sweeping the country like a plague. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry had this to say after the ruling:
"This example, and too many more like it, clearly demonstrates that the Voting Rights Act is needed today more than ever. Attempts to cut voting hours and polling places, limit early voting and restrict registration, especially targeting students, the elderly, people of color and the poor are all too pervasive in our nation today."
"Voter suppression in any form harms our democracy. CWA, the NAACP and other partners are determined to eliminate this and other barriers to democracy."
“The facts are that conditions have not changed in many parts of our country where voters have suffered from a long history of racial discrimination in voting and new forms of voter suppression continue to threaten our democracy. In many states and localities across the country, we saw efforts to disenfranchise African American and Latino voters during the 2012 election. Whether in the form of onerous voter ID laws or citizenship check boxes meant to confuse voters, state and local governments are already changing their election laws and procedures in ways that will disenfranchise millions of eligible voters, including the elderly, the disabled and young people.AFT President Randi Wiengarten agrees that our rights as voters are still under attack every day.
“With this decision, state and local governments in areas with a proven history of racial discrimination in voting will have no effective check on their power to change election laws as they please, potentially opening the floodgates to even more discriminatory practices that will prevent eligible citizens from voting. Congress should move swiftly to remedy the harm that the Court has done to one of our most important civil rights laws.
“With today’s ruling, a narrow majority of the Supreme Court rolls back the protections of a fundamental civil rights law that has preserved voting rights for millions of Americans. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act has enshrined the right to free and fair elections in our country. Sadly, this is a decision that makes you shake your head and ask: Does the Court majority live in the same world that we do—how can they be so out of touch with the real-life efforts to suppress voting that are happening right now?"This ruling means that communities that have a proven history of trying to limit voters rights will once again have the free reign to do so. New Hampshire is one of the many states still fighting back against the right-wing attacks on voters rights.
“In his opinion for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice Roberts conveniently ignores the recent history of voter suppression efforts. The tests and devices that blocked ballot access in the 1960s may be largely gone, but 21st-century tactics to disenfranchise Americans—restrictive voter ID laws, outcome-driven redistricting, limiting voting hours and opportunities, and spreading misinformation about polling places and times—still disproportionately impact African-American, Latino, immigrant and low-income voters, as well as students and seniors."
“The Voting Rights Act is necessary to ensure that our aspirations for a stronger democracy are a reality for all voters. It is a proven tool to ensure voters in covered jurisdictions are not deprived of their fundamental right to vote and to have their vote counted. We can only imagine what assaults on that right will be unleashed without this law in force."
"Political and legal pushback to overly restrictive rules won't always arrive in time for individual citizens who do not have the right kind of ID," said Professor Justin Levitt, an election law expert engaged in voter protection efforts nationwide. "Organizations like VoteRiders are working to help make sure that eligible voters aren't unfairly locked out of the polls in the meantime."
This decision means that we must work together within our unions and with our community allies to fight back against any form of voter suppression.