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The Power of Now
(New York, NY)--On the one-year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's decision that gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the leader of the civil rights organization that litigated the case before the Court describes to Congress how the Shelby County v. Holder decision has unleashed a wave of voter discrimination efforts throughout the country.
"The Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder has left millions of voters of color without the mechanism that, for decades, prevented voting discrimination before it occurs," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational, Fund Inc. (LDF).
Although the stories have not made national news, Ifill contends that community activists and lawyers representing voters of color around the country "have had to play whack-a-mole" in an effort to keep up with voter suppression efforts.
She cites polling place closures, discriminatory voter ID laws, new restrictions on early voting, and the elimination of majority-black and Latino districts for local elections in states like Texas, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina as among the changes that have left voters of color scrambling to protect their ability to participate equally in the political process.
Ifill urges Congress to move quickly on the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act, a measured, flexible, and forward-looking attempt by Congress to update the Voting Rights Act in response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which argued Shelby County v. Holder before the Supreme Court, has been closely tracking how formerly covered states and localities have responded to the Shelby County v. Holder decision. Numerous states and jurisdictions have taken advantage of the ruling to enact voting measures that have negatively impacted communities of color.
For example, just hours after the Shelby County v. Holder decision, Texas declared that its previously blocked photo identification law would be implemented for future elections. That law, which was previously rejected by a federal court because it was determined to be the most discriminatory photo ID law in the country, is currently the subject of litigation. It has been estimated that there are 1 million registered voters in Texas who lack the requisite voter ID required by the new law. LDF represents African-American students at one of the state's historically black colleges who can no longer use their student ID to vote.
Similarly, Augusta, Georgia moved its municipal elections from November to May, when African-American voter turnout is substantially lower. In April, community activists and civil rights lawyers successfully beat back efforts to cut early voting by 21 days in Georgia.
Baker County, Georgia considered closing four of its five polling places, which would have been devastating in a county in which 36 percent of residents live in poverty and that lacks a public transit system.
For further information, on how states and jurisdictions are responding to the Shelby County v. Holder decision, click here.