The Task Force Rallies for Voting Rights in Roanoke
I think Justice Ginsburg said it best when she said, “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Justice Ginsburg invoked this metaphor in her dissent opposing the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which stripped from the 1965 Voting Rights Act one of its most powerful protections. With that decision, the Court shredded voter protections from a pivotal piece of civil rights legislation.
For background, in Shelby County v. Holder the Supreme Court ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4 laid out the test used by the Department of Justice to determine which states were required to obtain preclearance (outlined in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) for any changes to their election law. The intent of this test was to identify states that had previously instituted discriminatory voting practices and to safeguard voting rights in those states. The states that were identified by this test included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and certain areas of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota. These states and areas were required to get permission from the Department of Justice before implementing any electoral law changes. The Department of Justice preclearance authority was able to quash discriminatory practices before they had a chance to begin. Following Shelby, states are now free to do as they please with their voting laws and this has erected voting access barriers for many of our most vulnerable communities.
That is why on Thursday June 25, the National LGBTQ Task Force was present in Roanoke, VA to stand in solidarity with over 400 people gathered in the home district of Chairman Goodlatte to demand that he schedule a hearing on restoring the Voting Rights Act before the House Judiciary Committee.
Over 40 organizations were in attendance at the rally, and while we all had different missions, we were all able to unite together around the continued need to secure our democracy by demanding equality in our voting rights. While Shelby may have opened the door to numerous attempts to keep minority and low-income voters away from the polls, the story is not over. As advocates we are uniting and demanding that our constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote be protected. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was introduced the day before the rally, is a key piece of legislation that will restore voter protections that were stripped out by Shelby and ensure that all our voices are heard.
by Amanda Naranjo, National LGBTQ Task Force Law Fellow