FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Statement on Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Decision

June 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Fair Elections, Recent Blog Posts

LBJ signing Voting Rights ActToday, Tennessee Citizen Action was invited to stand with the NAACP Nashville Branch, the ACLU of TN, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee, and others in acknowleging that this week the Supreme Court delivered a devastating setback to civil rights in America. Our statement:

In the Court’s eyes, “things have changed dramatically” since the days of Jim Crow. So much so, they say, that Congress must fix the “outdated” formula for deciding which states are covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. We agree. Congress does have to fix the formula that determines which states and other jurisdictions must abide by the Voting Rights Act. In doing so, they must create a formula that puts every state in the Union under the Voting Rights Act.

And here’s why. Although there are no longer fire hoses and dogs, segregation laws and beatings in broad daylight, the voting rights of ALL Americans are under attack and in much more devious and sophisticated ways. We’ve certainly seen this first hand in Tennessee.

Enemies of voting rights have replaced the heavy-fisted attacks on the body and soul and discovered new ways in which to make it easier for some people to vote than others – and those “others” are almost always people of color and the economically disadvantaged.

As we discussed during the debate on photo ID to vote, not everyone has the economic means to obtain the government issued photo ID required  – they might not have a car to get to the Department of Safety, or the disposable income to track down and obtain a copy of the birth certificate they need to get the photo ID,  or it may be that they just have the time off from work or the freedom from their employer to stand in line and wait for the documents necessary without losing an hour or two or three of the precious wages they need to make ends meet.

There is good news though – the court has given us, through our representatives in Congress, a way to fix this ruling. Congress can re-write the section of the Act the court invalidated to provide federal oversight of state laws that threaten free and fair elections that are accessible to all. It can be, and has been, done. The last time in 2006 when the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized with bipartisan legislation.

We call on Congress to have an adult conversation about voting rights – that includes the difficult topics of how racial and economic injustice affects voting rights – and then create national voting standards that keeps voting equal and accessible to everyone in all 50 states.

If not, then we must show our dissatisfaction and our strength at the ballot box.

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