Democracy Initiative Organizations and Allies Rally for Voting Rights in Virginia on 2nd Anniversary of Shelby v. Holder

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, on the 2nd anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, hundreds of environmental, labor, and civil rights activists joined member organizations of the Democracy Initiative and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, and journeyed to Elmwood Park in Roanoke, VA to rally for voting rights and an equal voice for all in our democracy.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Larry Cohen, Democracy Initiative Chair: 

“The Voting Rights Act is fundamental to our democracy, and it is outrageous that on the two year anniversary of the Shelby decision, we have yet to even have a single Congressional hearing to fix it. The Democracy Initiative worked with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to organize the rally in Roanoke and Rep. Goodlatte, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, would be wise to take notice of the growing movement at his doorstep. His obstruction will not go unnoticed as Americans across the country demand full voting rights similar to those in every other 21st century democracy.” 

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President: 

“The systematic racism that the Voting Rights Act was passed to repair still exists and in some ways has expanded. The labor movement is committed to giving a voice to the underrepresented. We will not stand by and watch as Congress and state leaders continue to erect new barriers to people trying to exercise their basic right to vote. Now is the time to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.” 

From Lee Saunders, AFSCME President: 

“Today, AFSCME stands with the countless Americans and community organizations rallying to restore voting rights stripped of citizens in the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision two years ago. 

“By allowing political games to trump decades of law, the Supreme Court opened the door for discriminatory legislation, policies and practices that disenfranchise communities and impede citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote. The Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision steamrolled the most basic right of ordinary Americans, and a centerpiece of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Congress must take action to restore the Voting Rights Act and to safeguard every voter’s say in our democracy.  AFSCME is committed to ensuring that ordinary Americans have a voice, both in the workplace and in the polling place. We demand that our leaders protect the right to vote.” 

From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President: 

“While attacks on voting rights have proliferated in direct response to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, Rep. Goodlatte has failed not just to hold a hearing on legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, but even to acknowledge that voting discrimination exists. Such willful disregard for the fundamental rights of African-Americans and others is an embarrassment to American democracy.”    

From Terry Ao Minnis, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC Director of Census and Voting Programs:

“Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the country,  naturalizing and registering to vote in places least expected – the U.S. South and Midwest. These regions, which have a history of discrimination in voting, are where minority communities need the most protection at the voting booth. The number of Asian Americans registered to vote in Virginia increased by 136 percent between 2004 and 2012, and the number of Asian Americans casting ballots in Virginia increased by 180 percent between 2004 and 2012, rates significantly higher than all other racial groups. 

“While an unprecedented number of Asian Americans turned out to vote in 2012 in Virginia, voters are no longer protected in the same way as they were before the Shelby decision. As Asian American communities continue to grow rapidly in Virginia and other Southern states, racial tensions could increase, and discrimination at the polls could also increase, resulting in decreased Asian American voter turnout. The Voting Rights Act, if restored, can help ensure that Asian Americans can vote free from discrimination and be able to influence elections in the future.”  

From Campaign for America’s Future: 

“The Campaign for America’s Future stands in solidarity with people from throughout the country who are converging in Roanoke, Va., to demand full voting rights. 

“It is unconscionable that the fundamental right to vote, and the fundamental principle of every citizen having an equal voice in our democracy, is under assault from so many quarters – from the Supreme Court’s action to strip preclearance provisions from the Voting Rights Act to the state legislatures that have erected barriers to the ballot box that keep African Americans, Hispanics, low-income people, students and anyone else with a vested interest in challenging the corporate/conservative status quo from voting. 

“It is particularly egregious that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Roanoke’s representative in the House, Rep. Robert Goodlatte, won’t even allow a hearing on legislation – co-sponsored by a fellow Republican – that would repair the damage done by the Supreme Court’s preclearance ruling. To deny a hearing on legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act is to deny equal access to our democracy. It is time for Rep. Goodlatte to end his resistance and allow citizens, through their Congress, to make the promise of a right to vote a reality.” 

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President: 

“For nearly a half-century, the Voting Rights Act worked. It brought millions of people into full membership in our democracy and prevented thousands of discriminatory practices from taking hold in states across the country. But the right to vote remains in jeopardy. That’s why, with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress reauthorized the law in 2006. It’s why Congress needs to act again to repair the damage done to the law by the Supreme Court. New legislation, in keeping with the Supreme Court’s mandate, has been introduced.  It would restore the Act’s protections. The right to vote is not a Democratic or Republican matter; it’s an American guarantee.” 

From Communications Workers of America (CWA): 

“It’s shameful that as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we have to fight again to end discrimination against citizens who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. 

CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, riding the bus to Roanoke, said, “more than 50 years ago, people suffered tremendously for the right to vote. We thought that battle was won when the Voting Rights Act was passed, but sadly, we must continue to fight against attacks on our right to vote.” 

From Democracy Matters:

“Ensuring the right of all Americans to vote and participate in democracy is central to our American way of life. Democracy Matters is proud to stand with partner organizations in the Democracy Initiative in supporting the restoration of the VRA. Democracy Matters supports universal access to the democratic process for all citizens and supports all efforts to protect citizens against laws designed to impede the ability of Americans to exercise their full civil rights.” 

From Demos: 

“Today, Demos proudly stands with hundreds of concerned Americans to demand that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) so it can fulfill its original intent—to secure the right to vote to all Americans. 

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to voting rights by striking down key parts of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder. Since then, state legislatures across the country have rushed to implement new restrictive laws such as inequitable redistricting plans, restrictive voter ID laws, and restriction of early voting opportunities. And despite public outcry and a bipartisan effort to restore the VRA, congressional leadership has decided to ignore voter discrimination and the will of the American people.  

“Indeed, though members of Congress from both parties traveled to Selma earlier this year to honor the marchers who experienced horrific violence and brutality to secure the right to vote, they have failed to restore the voting protections for which brave Americans lost their lives. Further, unless Congress acts, voters in 2016 will face the first presidential election in 50 years where they will lack crucial protections in federal law to combat racial discrimination in voting.  

“Lawmakers paid tribute to the marchers’ courage, but when Congress commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the VRA in this August, we expect them to do so with a fully restored Voting Rights Act in place.” 

From Nick Nyhart, Every Voice Center President and CEO: 

“One person, one vote! Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act passed into law, Congress is failing to protect every American’s basic right to vote, and we now have the rule of the money over the will of the many. Democracy is strongest when everyone has a vote and a voice in our elections.” 

Click here to read the entire statement. 

From John Bonifaz, Free Speech for People Founder and President: 

“Two years ago, the US Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, invalidated critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark voting rights law passed in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all Americans are included in our democracy. We urge Congress to act today to restore the Voting Rights Act in this 50th anniversary year of its passage. The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy.  As a nation committed to the promise of political equality and the principle of one person, one vote, we must protect this fundamental right for all Americans.”   

From Rachel Rye Butler, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaigner: 

“A healthy democracy is one free of voter disenfranchisement. It is vital that all Americans—especially communities already on the front lines of the climate crisis-- have access to one of the most fundamental rights of our democracy.   

“We stand with civil rights leaders in calling for voting rights to be upheld for all Americans. Equality and justice are part of our shared vision for the future, and today in Roanoke, we stand with our allies to move that vision forward. It’s high time that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act.” 

From Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters President: 

“A critical step in the fight against climate change is an open and fair electoral process where every American’s voice can be heard. Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, widespread attacks on voting rights show us how far we must go to secure a healthy democracy. Congress should act now to protect marginalized communities and stop discrimination within our elections.” 

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO: 

“It is appalling that 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was passed, we as a country are still fighting to protect the rights of all Americans to have unfettered access to the ballot box. In the two years since the Supreme Court dismantled the protections found in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, voters across the country have witnessed a series of voter suppression measures including the adoption of restrictive voter ID laws, roll backs to early voting, and the elimination of same day registration, which most impact people of color, low income communities, students and the elderly. On the 50th anniversary of the VRA, Congress has both the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that all Americans have equal access to our democracy by taking steps to restore Section 4b of the Voting Right Act.” 

From Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network President and Founder: 

“I applaud those members of Congress who came together today to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Voting Rights Advancement Act addresses the modern-day assault on the right to vote that impacts a broad cross section of American voters, including people of color, young people, veterans and people with disabilities, who too often need these protections. 

“Unfortunately, voting discrimination continues to undermine the fundamental rights of millions of Americans to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Discrimination is not unique to one region or one state, it reaches all parts of our great country. In the two years since the Supreme Court struck down key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act, American voters have been subject to more restrictive voting laws than at any other time in the last 50 years.  

“If we don’t act now, the 2016 election will be the first time in 50 years that voters will not have the full protections guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act. As the leading democracy in the world, voting should be free, fair and accessible to all. The Voting Rights Advancement Act will help achieve these goals and I urge Congress to vote on it without delay.” 

From Melanie Campbell,  National Coalition of Black Civic Participation President and CEO: 

“The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (The National Coalition) and Black Youth Vote, which includes more than 60 national organizations and state-based affiliates representing nearly 40 million Americans, is proud  to be part of  today’s protest  with  the  Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR, Democracy Initiative and others in our fight to protect the voting rights for all Americans.  We stand in solidarity with our civil rights and social justice allies by joining in the #RestoreVRA Rally in Roanoke, VA to urge Congress to restore the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.   Today, Thursday, June 24 marks two years  since the  U.S. Supreme Court  gutted Section 4 of the VRA.  Now is the time for Congress to do the right thing and restore the Voting Rights Act. 

“The National Coalition is dedicated to increasing civic engagement and voter participation in Black and underserved communities. The National Coalition is committed to encouraging fully participation in a barrier-free democracy.” 

From Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director: 

“Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the devastating Shelby decision and gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Court's ruling was followed by a flood of state laws across the nation that impede voters’ constitutional right to vote. 

“Every year, election after election, people of color are having their right to vote diminished by unnecessary voter ID laws as well as discriminatory polling practices. As LGBTQ people, we know all too well what it means to be marginalized and denied basic rights. 

“This summer, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we stand united in our commitment to ensuring that these rights are fully restored. We cannot allow these precious rights to be taken away from us when we know there was blood, sweat, and tears that was shed by so many to secure them. We must continue working to eliminate all barriers to full freedom, justice, and equality for all. We thank our legislative champions for introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act and we strongly urge Congress to pass this vital legislation.” 

From Joe Velasquez, National Council of La Raza Action Fund Executive Director: 

“It is disgraceful that Congress has done nothing to restore our voting rights in the two years since the Supreme Court hollowed out the Voting Rights Act.  Democracy cannot survive when our lawmakers let voting discrimination run rampant, ignore the proliferation of perverse barriers that seek to exclude marginalized voters, and otherwise neglect their duty to protect our system of government of, by, and for the people. 

“Chairman Goodlatte has the power to fix this untenable state of affairs, and yet he has so far chosen to absurdly claim that the VRA needs no rehabilitation. We remind Rep. Goodlatte that burying his head in the sand will not make voting discrimination disappear, and we call on the Chairman to lead Congress in restoring the gutted Voting Rights Act.” 

From Bobby Tolbert, National People’s Action Vice President

“The Voting Rights Act has played a pivotal role in building our democracy and safeguarding the right to vote so that everyone has a voice. But the Roberts' Supreme Court is more in touch with special interests and big corporations than with voters' rights. The Roberts Court is willing to roll back democracy itself to advance an agenda that favors big money over everyday people. We hope Congressman Goodlatte will stand with the people instead of an out of touch Supreme Court.” 

From Michael Keegan, People for the American Way President: 

“We join together to recognize both the brave leaders who paved the way for the Voting Rights Act fifty years ago and the road ahead to restore protections at the polls. For almost half a century, this landmark law helped ensure that people of color had equal access to the ballot box. 

“It is imperative that Congress restores the protections that the Court gutted two years ago. Two years is far too long for voters to face the threat, and the reality, of increased racial discrimination at the polls. As we gear up for the 2016 presidential election, it’s more urgent than ever for these protections to be restored. 

“Today we call on Chairman Goodlatte and his colleagues to honor those who have fought for decades for the right to cast a vote that counts by working together to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.” 

Click here to read the entire statement.

From Michael Slater, Project Vote President: 

“It would be nice to think that racial injustice was truly a thing of the past in America, but recent events have reminded us that this country is still grappling fiercely with issues of violence, discrimination, and inequality. The protections of the Voting Rights Act are every bit as vital now as they were 50 years ago, and Congress must act now to restore them if we as a nation are to go forward, not backwards.” 

Click here to read the rest of their release. 

From Aaron Mair, Sierra Club President: 

“In places like Roanoke, communities that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and facing the worst environmental injustices are the same ones experiencing voter suppression and racial discrimination. Voter suppression holds communities back from truly participating in our democracy and addressing pressing issues like the climate crisis.” 

From Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director:

“The Shelby decision was a major setback for voting rights and will have a real impact on voters. The Voting Rights Act is a vital tool to ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot. For more than 35 years, U.S. PIRG has worked for a vibrant democracy, to make it as easy as possible for citizens to vote and register to vote. We urge Congress to act in the best interest of our democracy by wasting no time in updating the Voting Rights Act. Let’s not let the 2016 election become the first presidential contest in 50 years where voters lack crucial protections to ensure that every eligible voter can cast their ballot regardless of race, age or gender.” 

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.