This week, the League attended a special meeting on Capitol Hill conducted by Senators Mark Begich and Harry Reid concerning voting rights. We were one of several invited organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP, the ACLU and the Asian American Alliance for Justice. The meeting focused on the need to move more quickly on the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). Just last month a hearing was finally held on the VRAA in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with League members and staff in attendance.
At the meeting this week, we were also reminded of the importance of the Voting Rights Act, not just in protecting the rights of racial and ethnic minorities, but also the rights of language minorities. Alaska’s Senator Begich invited representatives of the Native American community from his state, who updated the group about a lawsuit currently being tried in Alaska under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. The concerns raised in that trial about meaningful access to information, and not just information about candidates and what’s on a voter’s ballot, but about the entire election process, were reinforced by a representative of the Asian American community.
During the course of the meeting, 16 senators heard from the voting rights community that fixing the Voting Rights Act was a top priority especially in advance of the upcoming federal election. From protecting language minorities to providing meaningful notice of changes to election laws and local election resources to insuring that voters have a meaningful ability to stop discriminatory practices before they go into effect, the message was clear: the Voting Rights Act is critical to American democracy and must be repaired and restored.
I assured the Senators that the League’s grassroots effort in support of the VRAA will continue, and that we will do whatever we can to move the bill through the legislative process to enactment. Tell your Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and keep this vital legislation moving forward. The VRAA is a key component in the League’s fight to protect our elections and to protect the rights of every eligible voter.