It’s Shelby Week! Congress Must Pass H.R. 4 to Strengthen the Voting Rights ActThe U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on voting rights marking the sixth anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision.
By Mirielle Wright
On Tuesday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on voting rights marking the sixth anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision. The decision substantially weakened the Voting Rights Act and allowed states to enact discriminatory laws disproportionately harming Black and Brown voters. Measures like strict voter ID requirements, cuts to early voting days, and purging of the voter rolls, were tactics implemented to make it harder for voters of color to cast a ballot.
Key witnesses included Stacey Abrams, former Georgia Democratic candidate for governor and founder of Fair Fight Action; Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and Kyle Hawkins, Solicitor General of Texas in the Office of the Texas Attorney General. During the hearing several key points became clear.
- Voters still face challenges in casting a ballot. “In 2016 alone, 14 states imposed new restrictive voting laws for the first time in advance of a presidential election. By 2018, six states had new restrictive laws in place. Federal courts have determined intentional discrimination in at least 10 voting rights decisions since Shelby in 2013. It is clear that Shelby County v. Holder case has made it easier for states and localities to revert back to discriminatory practices that restrict the voting rights of Black, Brown, Native, and Asian American people.” (Shelby Week 2019, Page 2)
- Congress must pass H.R. 4 to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act previously required states with a history of discrimination to submit election changes to the federal government for approval. In the aftermath of the Shelby decision, which eliminated this requirement, non-profit organizations must now remedy voter suppression after it happens and wage expensive litigation that can take years to correct state voting laws. H.R. 4 would require states to provide notice of their desired changes to the federal government and show the impact of these changes on various voting groups.
- Higher turnout among Black voters in Georgia’s 2018 election is NOT an indication that voter suppression is non-existent. Increased turnout among Black voters in Georgia was due to the engagement work of groups like the New Georgia Project, a long-time partner of Advancement Projects National Office. Ahead of the 2018 election, 1.4 million voters were purged from the voting rolls.
Watch the full hearing here. During Shelby Week 2019 (June 24-30), voters across the country can support voting rights by demanding Congress pass H.R. 4 and restore the Voting Rights Act. Contact members of Congress at 202-224-3121 and let them know how the Shelby decision “unleashed a torrent of voter discrimination and electoral chaos nationwide (Shelby Week, Page 10). Learn how Advancement Project National Office has worked to protect voting rights and our work with #WeVoteWeCount initiative. We must #RestoreTheVote now!
Mirielle Wright is an undergraduate student at Harvard University studying African-American Studies and Government. She is currently working as a Communications Intern at Advancement Project.