What do the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia have in common? In the aftermath of the landmark case Shelby County v. Holder, all of the aforementioned states implemented harmful electoral changes; altercations previously prevented in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 5 of the VRA ensured certain states and local governments must obtain federal preclearance heretofore executing any changes to their voting laws or practices. Representative John Lewis (GA-5), a key leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as advocate for the extension of voting rights delineated the gutting of Section 5 as “a dagger to the heart of the Voting Rights Act.”
While advocacy in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder lead to courts in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas removing discriminatory restrictions in their voting process, restrictions previously covered by Section 5 remain intact in 12 other states.
The disenfranchisement of the American voter cannot continue.
Last week, the Voting Rights Advancement Act was reintroduced in Congress. If passed, the VRAA would bring back accountability to our elections. By reinvigorating Section 5, the VRAA would modernize the preclearance formula from the 1965 Voting Rights Act to incorporate states with a pattern of discrimination, ensure “last minute” voting changes will not adversely affect voters, and expanding the Effective Federal Observer Program, a program that enables the Attorney General to send federal observers to any place he determined to have a substantial risk of racial discrimination. Moreover, the act would improve voting rights protections for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, as well as non-native English speakers who lack resources for voting in their respective languages.
The Reform Movement stands in strong support of the ideals paramount to the American Dream such as democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality that lie within the Voting Rights Advancement Act. To embrace these values leaders must be fully accountable and transparent to the populous. In the words of Rabbi Yitzhak, “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a).
Citizens all across the country, regardless of color, ability, or origin; their vote must be fully protected under law. The people have the right to know about voting changes that will affect them in upcoming elections.
Join the RAC’s fight for both equal access, and transparency out of our elections. Make your voice heard. Implore Congress to bring American values to American elections: Pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act!
Hamilton Brooks is a rising senior at the Potomac School and is interning at the RAC this summer.