Shelby v. Holder Ruling Continues to Undermine Voters of Color, Underscores Need for Right to VoteWe need more tools to make elections free and fair.
Washington – Advancement Project, a national civil rights and racial justice organization, released the following statement on the fourth anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court ruling, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:
“In the years since the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, a flurry of jurisdictions have passed measures erecting barriers between people and their vote,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project’s National Office. “Without the VRA’s protections against racially retrogressive laws, the bulk of these measures are aimed specifically at keeping Black people and other communities of color the ballot. It is a disgrace to see our national leaders misdirecting the public with false claims about the integrity of our elections. Elections should be free and fair, and we should spend our efforts ensuring that every eligible voter can make themselves heard. Last week, members of Congress yet again introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would reinstate certain protections of the Voting Rights Act. This is commendable. Still, we should not have to rely on the political process to ensure that all people have a voice in our democracy. At heart, these issues underscore the need for a definitive, long-term solution: an affirmative right to vote.”
“While we call for definitive measures to protect the vote, we also commemorate important victories fueled by the voting rights movement in the states,” said Edward A. Hailes, General Counsel and Managing Director at Advancement Project. “From Virginia to North Carolina and beyond, grassroots organizations like New Virginia Majority are boldly continuing the work started generations before ours. We move forward in full awareness of our obstacles, and inspired by movement leaders in the past and the present.”
“While organizations like Advancement Project have successfully proved the racially discriminatory intent behind suppressive voting laws like North Carolina’s, we need more tools to make elections free and fair,” said Donita Judge, Co-Director of Advancement Project’s Power and Democracy Program. “Since before our country was founded, there have been individuals doing their best to keep Black people from voting. That goes against what our democracy stands for. We should coalesce around what works, increase citizen participation, remove barriers to voting, and affirm our right to vote.”
“In states like Missouri, it is impossible to separate the rise in Black power fueled by the Movement for Black Lives from attempts to curtail the voices of people of color at the ballot box,” said Denise Lieberman, Co-Director of Advancement Project’s Power and Democracy Program. “We should honor these movements, a most American form of improving democracy, by making it easier – not harder – to vote and enact change.”
In a 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the Court struck Section 4 of the VRA in 2013. By doing so, the Court threw out the formula determining which states should be required to submit any changes to voting laws to the federal government for review, based on their troublesome histories of racially motivated voter suppression. The majority ruled that the “preclearance” formula was outdated, and tasked Congress with writing a new set of rules. Now, four years later, Congress has failed to do so.
Since the Shelby County ruling, states have passed new laws that impose barriers on the right to vote – from limitations on when and where voters can register and vote, to burdensome photo ID requirements. Many jurisdictions have also made shifts in election administration, including closing and relocating polling sites – often in communities of color.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.