In June 2013, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder1 that destroyed the Voting Rights Act, ending 40 years of protection for minorities against discriminatory and unfair attempts to limit voting based on one's race.2
It's a shameful decision, and after hearing oral arguments, it sadly comes as no surprise. During the oral arguments in this case, Justice Scalia described the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act as "the perpetuation of a racial entitlement," and other justices questioned whether racial discrimination even still exists.
Now that the Voting Rights Act has been gutted, we must act to protect the rights of everyone to vote. That's why there must be a constitutional amendment that guarantees the freedom to vote for every citizen, regardless of race or where they live. And we're joining with our friends at Color of Change to help make that happen.
Join the movement to pass a constitutional amendment that protects the right to vote for every citizen.
While the Supreme Court did not invalidate Section 5, a key part of the Voting Rights Act, it threw out the basic formula that has been used practically since the bill's passage in 1965 to determine where the Justice Department must provide approval before local election rules that would suppress the votes of African American and Latino citizens can be put into effect. While voter suppression rules can still be challenged by the Department of Justice after the fact, this will most likely happen too late to prevent minority voters from being blocked from the polls. The court's decision effectively guts the Voting Rights Act, rendering it useless until we elect a Congress willing to update this formula — which could take years.
For decades the Voting Rights Act protected voters in pockets of the country with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices. Just this past election, it allowed the Justice Department to block attempts by Texas, South Carolina and Florida to implement discriminatory voting rules.
For decades, the Voting Rights Act has helped narrow the gap that exists between civic participation rates of white voters and voters from communities of color. But now, right-wing efforts to make it harder for African Americans and Latino citizens to vote will be completely unfettered. With so many state legislatures and governorships held by these right-wing extremists, efforts to block voting access will be widespread, targeted and coordinated.
But a constitutional amendment would forever enshrine the right to equal and protected access to the vote and ensure that we never again come face-to-face with the type of voter suppression that we'll surely see in the next election, as the ramifications of this court decision are felt.
For African Americans, voting has never been a "racial entitlement." It is a right that was earned through extraordinary sacrifice.
The Voting Rights Act was the result of decades of hard work, of advocacy, of protests and marches and courage before fire hoses and police dogs. It was one of the crowning achievements of a generation.
Now we can put those protections back in place and ensure that the right to vote is guaranteed by the highest law of the land. While the road to passing a constitutional amendment for the freedom to vote is long and paved with obstacles, if we join together with our allies, we can make it happen.
Thank you for standing up for the right to vote.