(New York) — Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) commemorates the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, a bill that remains a cornerstone feature of American democracy. The Act is widely considered one of the most successful and effective civil rights statutes ever passed by Congress and continues to play an important role in combating ongoing voting discrimination throughout our nation.
Today’s anniversary follows the recent filing of three lawsuits that take aim at a core provision of the Voting Rights Act — the Section 5 preclearance provision. That provision requires that certain states with long histories of voting discrimination obtain federal approval before implementing new voting laws or practices. Throughout the life of the Act, hundreds of discriminatory voting changes have been blocked by this important Section 5 provision and ultimately thousands of Americans have had the obstacles to their voting rights removed. Awareness of the Voting Rights Act stops many who would otherwise seek to continue discriminatory actions.
"The strength of our democracy turns on continued enforcement of the Voting Rights Act," said John Payton, LDF Director-Counsel and President. Payton noted that "the 45th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act is a moment to observe the great progress that has been made while recommitting ourselves to confront the ongoing challenges that remain and the vital protections that help us combat them."
LDF played a central role in Congress’s recent 2006 reauthorization of Section 5 and other provisions of the Act. During that process, Congress developed an extensive record demonstrating that discrimination persists in many places around the country.
Co-Directors of LDF's Political Participation Group, Kristen Clarke and Ryan Haygood observed respectively that "the Voting Rights Act remains central to the tireless efforts of lawyers, advocates and citizens committed to ensuring that every eligible citizen has an equal opportunity to participate in our political process.” And, “with redistricting scheduled to commence next year and in the face of upcoming mid-term elections, continued vigilance remains necessary to protect minority voting rights which serves as our democracy’s checkpoint."