On anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder, democracy advocates call for reform

Posted on June 25, 2019 in Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Tess Waggoner | (202)429-9210 | twaggoner@aaiusa.org

June 25, 2019

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today marks the six-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Shelby County v. Holder – a decision that eliminated a core element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Arab American Institute joins other civil rights organizations and allies to mark June 24-30 as a Shelby Week of Action to push Congress to act to restore the VRA and pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA).  

The VRA aimed to protect the rights of American voters, particularly minority voters, from institutional discrimination and disenfranchisement. In the Shelby decision, the Supreme Court eliminated the Justice Department’s authority to review, and resist when necessary, any changes made to voting laws in states with histories of racial discrimination. As a result, several states have passed discriminatory laws that have already successfully suppressed voter turnout.  

Additionally, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the Shelby anniversary and rallies and events across the country are planned to highlight the discriminatory policies impacting our election systems and to call for better oversight and necessary reforms. 

"When the Voting Rights Act was passed, it protected all underrepresented eligible voters, including Arab Americans,” said AAI Executive Director Maya Berry. Since the Shelby decision stripped the VRA of its core accountability elements, we have seen a marked negative impact on voter turnout with institutionalized voter suppression in some states. In the last six years, we have seen state after state enact restrictive statewide voter laws – from stringent voter ID requirements, to limitations on voter registration opportunities and early voting options, to the purge of eligible voters from voter rolls – measures that disproportionately affect minority voters. 

Berry added, “Americans want a system that works for all voters. In 2018, voters turned out to the polls in record numbers to support laws aimed to make voting more accessible. In Florida, voters restored voting rights to 1.4 million voters with past felony convictions. In Michigan, voters passed a reform package that included same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration. The energy and votes behind these policies show that Americans know our democracy only works when every voter has the equal opportunity to exercise their sacred right to vote. Now, Congress must deliver on the national level by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

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