Calls for Restoration of Historic Legislation Sound Nationwide; President Obama Backs National Voter Registration Day

Washington, DC – The League of Women Voters added their voice to those sounding nationwide, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

“The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “The VRA ensures the right to vote of every eligible American regardless of race, ethnicity or language and protects against election laws and practices that have disparate impact on groups of voters, whether state and local officials intended that impact or not.”

“The most significant provisions of the VRA were Sections 4 and 5 which created criteria for requiring federal oversight of states and localities based on patterns of discriminatory practices,” MacNamara said. “Two years ago, however, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Section 4 criteria unconstitutional, effectively gutting the Section 5 preclearance structure in Shelby County v. Holder.”

“The almost immediate result of the Shelby County v. Holder decision was passage or implementation of laws that would not have been pre-cleared under Section 5,” said MacNamara. “North Carolina was one of the first states to take advantage, passing one of the nation’s most restrictive election laws. The North Carolina League was there to fight back and is now awaiting a decision on their lawsuit challenging the omnibus election ‘reform’ bill.”

“We are thrilled to hear President Obama today call for restoration of the VRA and also urging eligible Americans to be sure they are registered to vote,” MacNamara said. “For democracy to work best, we need everyone to weigh in. As one of the founding organizations behind National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), hearing the President proclaim September 22nd as the day this fall that we will fan out to get people registered is energizing. Voter empowerment is what we have been doing for nearly 100 years and NVRD is the front door to participation for thousands of eligible voters.”

“On this day there is good news: Congress can fix the Voting Rights Act to restore voter protections the Supreme Court stripped away,” concluded MacNamara. “The League has been a vocal supporter of provisions currently pending that would repair the VRA but we need to keep up the pressure and get the word out that the vote is our most fundamental right. To deny it to any eligible voter is wrong.”

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Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org.

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