House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said this morning that it is “not necessary” to fix the Voting Rights Act. But, the unfair burdens placed on African-American and other voters since the Supreme Court’s devastating Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder decision in 2013 illustrate that Chairman Goodlatte is deeply mistaken.
In 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County struck a blow to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by eliminating Section 4(b), the coverage provision that required certain state and local governments, mostly in the South, to receive federal approval before changing their voting laws. Within days of this decision, many of these states, including Virginia, began enforcing new voter photo ID laws and other restrictions on the right to vote. In the November 2014 mid-term elections–the first major election since the Shelby County decision–hundreds of thousands of Americans faced confusion over unnecessary changes in the law and, at times, disappointment because these changes kept thousands of qualified voters from casting a ballot at the polls.
In November 2014, a joint report by LDF and The Center for American Progress examined the effects of new restrictions on the right to vote in five states. In Texas, for example, LDF won a lawsuit in which a federal court found that the state voter ID law–implemented within hours of the Shelby County decision–was intentionally passed by the Texas Legislature to disfranchise qualified African-American and Latino voters, more than 600,000 of whom lacked the requisite voter ID. In Chairman Goodlatte’s own state of Virginia, almost 200,000 qualified voters likely lack the photo ID required to vote under the strict photo ID law put in place before the 2014 mid-term elections. Amongst these 200,000 voters was Virginia Whitaker, a 93-year-old cancer patient who was unable to vote for the first time in 72 years because she lacked photo identification.
Quote from Sherrilyn Ifill: As we stand on the eve of celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March that gave birth to the Voting Rights Act, it is extremely troubling that Chairman Goodlatte believes that there is no need to restore key protections to the Voting Rights Act. Unfortunately, the right to vote is still not equal for everyone; we continue to see gross examples in Virginia and other states passing laws that make it more difficult for African Americans and other people of color to vote. If Congress does not act to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act, we will never truly make good on Dr. King’s vision of racial equality.
To view the full joint report by the Legal Defense Fund and Center for American Progress click here.