Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) was signed into law 56 years ago. Since its passage in 1965, the Lawyers’ Committee has used the VRA as a basis to challenge discriminatory voting practices like racial gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, voter purges, and other attempts to prevent Black voters from accessing the ballot.
We know the VRA works. The law has been instrumental in our fight to protect hard-won civil rights, helping us win key victories in states on the frontlines of voter suppression…
But the VRA is being systematically dismantled. In the 2013 case Shelby County v Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the VRA. The Shelby ruling meant that states with a history of voter suppression and discrimination no longer had to seek “preclearance” before making changes to voting laws. What followed has been a wave of voter suppression tactics, including the anti- democracy bills introduced in dozens of state legislatures this year.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck another blow to the VRA this July. In the case Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the court upheld two Arizona laws that had an unequal impact on minority voters, making it far more difficult to prove that laws that disproportionately impact voters of color are illegal, and inviting disingenuous “voter fraud” fabrications to justify voter suppression tactics.
Discriminatory voting practices threaten to kill democracy by a thousand cuts. The court has now made it more difficult to fight those practices, and, in doing so, has signaled open season for those who are making it more difficult for people to vote, as their conduct will not be stopped by the courts.
With little help from the Supreme Court, the fight to protect voting rights is in our hands. That’s why we have called for a “Democracy Summer” of activism and action to defend civil rights, including urging Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which together would go a long way toward correcting the Supreme Court’s undoing of the VRA.
The fight to preserve voting rights is more urgent than ever.