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The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus


Letter to the Editor: Restore Key Portions of the Voting Rights Act

Thursday, Sep. 5, 2013

Published in the Columbus Dispatch, August 9, 2013
By LWVMC President, Amy Pulles

This month marks the 48th anniversary of the signing into law of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, widely recognized as one of the nation's most effective civil-rights statutes. A key part of the act, known as Section 4, was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

As president of the League of Women Voters of Metro Columbus, a nonpartisan civic organization, I think that the U.S. Supreme Court erased fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting through its decision in Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder. Only strong action from Congress can fix the court’s mistake.

More than 40 years after the civil-rights movement, the act continues to play a vital role in preventing discriminatory voting measures. Section 4 helped the U.S. Department of Justice block more than 700 racially discriminatory voting measures between 1982 and 2006. Upon its last reauthorization in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress declared that without the Voting Rights Act’s protections, “racial and language minority citizens will be deprived of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”

I believe the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on voters will be significant and far-reaching. This decision will only embolden those who seek to create barriers to voters’ rights.

Before the ink was even dry on the decision, several states rushed to implement laws that will negatively affect all voters, young and old, rich and poor alike.

Sadly, this is only the beginning. Without a strong Voting Rights Act, our ability to fight off anti-voter legislation and keep our elections free, fair and accessible is significantly weakened.

I will be advocating for Congress to fix this issue to restore the act to its full strength. This anniversary should be a call to action by those who believe in free and fair access for every eligible voter.