• Second Significant Voting Rights Case Heard by Supreme Court

     Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Arizona v. ITCA, Inc. a critically-important voting rights case that examines whether the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) prevents states from passing laws that restrict the voter registration process. In this case, the League of Women Voters of the U.S. submitted an amicus brief and the League of Women Voters of Arizona was a named plaintiff.

    “The NVRA was intended to and has succeeded in bringing more citizens into the democratic process since its passage in 1993,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “After 20 years, the Supreme Court should not let Arizona’s law trump the Constitution and overturn the NVRA with its proven record protecting the integrity of our election system and increasing access to voter registration in federal elections across the country.”

    “Restrictions on the use of the national voter registration application form like those by Arizona make it much more difficult to register eligible citizens to vote,” MacNamara said. “Independent registration drives by citizen groups like the League are often the only effective means for some voters to get registered and participate in our great democracy.”

    “States should not be allowed to play politics with the voter registration process, the key entry point for political participation in our democracy,” said MacNamara. “This case could send us down a slippery slope toward more and more state restrictions on the voter registration process and the right to vote.”

    “Once again, supposed ‘states rights’ are being used as an excuse to try and prevent people from registering to vote,” according to MacNamara. “We hope the Supreme Court sees this for what it really is – an attempt to keep some U.S. citizens from exercising their right to vote,” she said. 

    “The importance of the two recent Supreme Court voting rights cases – Arizona v. ITCA today and Shelby County, AL v. Holder two weeks ago – really can’t be overstated,” said MacNamara. “The stakes have always been high in the fight to protect and expand voters’ rights but the stakes got a lot higher in 2013.”

    “The Court is currently considering two of the most significant voting rights laws in the modern era,” MacNamara said. “The decisions in either and both of these cases could be game-changers when it comes to protections for the right of every citizen to vote and the work the League and citizen groups like us do to expand participation and the electorate.”

    “It is deeply troubling that the nation’s highest Court might turn its back on the crowning achievements of the civil rights era,” said MacNamara. “Arizona’s law clearly violates a federal law that Congress has clear constitutional authority to enact. As the grassroots organization that led the push for enactment of the NVRA, we are concerned that this case could reverse years of progress,” MacNamara said. “Restricting voter registration is just one way to limit the right to vote,” she said.   

    “Without a strong VRA, voting rights are left without vital protections and without the NVRA, the voter registration process is vulnerable to political manipulation,” concluded MacNamara. “If states win and voters lose before the U.S. Supreme Court, we can expect to see additional states consider an even broader range of restrictions on voting and changes to electoral systems unparalleled since the days of Jim Crow.”

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    CONTACT:  Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org

  • Please join us at 2:00pm ET this Friday, March 15th, as LWVUS and fellow voting and civil rights groups host an #NVRA Tweetchat to explain the nation’s strong need for the National Voter Registration Act. Use hashtag #NVRA to join the conversation.

  • EDITORIAL NOTE: This blog post was originally published on the Huffington Post.

  • Arizona v. ITC Places Citizens’ Right to Vote, Independent Voter Registration Drives at Risk

    Washington, D.C. (March 7, 2013) – Today, the League of Women Voters of the U.S. announced its submission of an amicus brief in the critical voting rights case, Arizona v. ITC, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 18.  The court is being asked to decide whether the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) prevents states from passing laws that restrict the voter registration process.

    “This case puts independent voter registration drives like those conducted by the League squarely in the crosshairs of those that want to restrict access to political participation and voting,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States.  “This is a dressed-up attack on the League and our community partners that are often the only effective means for some voters to get registered and participate in our great democracy.”

    “As the grassroots organization that led the push for enactment of the NVRA in order to streamline the crazy-quilt of state laws that made citizen-led voter registration drives so difficult, we are deeply concerned that this case could reverse years of progress,” MacNamara said. “Restricting voter registration is just one way to limit the right to vote,” she said.    

    The state of Arizona is looking to limit voter registration by mail by requiring every new registrant to provide documentary proof of citizenship, even though the NVRA bars states from adding such restrictions.  The streamlined mail registration form is an essential element for independent voter registration drives.  The federal Election Assistance Commission has repeatedly held that Arizona’s restrictions are not consistent with the NVRA. 

    “States should not be allowed to play politics with the voter registration process, the key entry point for political participation in our democracy,” said Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, which is a plaintiff in the case along with many other Arizona organizations.  “Congress acted to protect and enhance the right to vote when it passed the NVRA.  The U.S. Supreme Court should not step in over 20 years later and overturn Congress’ intention,” she said. 

    “Approval from the U.S. Supreme Court for state restrictions on voter registration would undoubtedly put that issue in front of state legislatures. Already, several states have sought to restrict voter registration, and we can expect others to try if given the green light by our nation's highest court,” said MacNamara.

    Arizona v. ITC is the second pivotal voting rights case in as many weeks to come before the U.S. Supreme Court.  On February 27, 2013, the court heard arguments in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case that will decide the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, landmark legislation that outlaws racial discrimination in state voting practices.

    “The importance of these two upcoming decisions simply can’t be overstated,” said MacNamara. “Without a strong VRA, voting rights are left without vital protections.  Dismantling the NVRA leaves the voter registration process vulnerable to political manipulation.  If states win and voters lose before the U.S. Supreme Court, we can expect to see additional states consider an even broader range of restrictions on voting and changes to electoral systems unparalleled since the days of Jim Crow,” concluded MacNamara.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos at kceballos@lwv.org

  • President's Address Sets "Strong Course for Nation" on Climate, Immigration and Gun Safety

    Washington, DC – The following is a statement from Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States: “The President tonight set a strong course for the nation in committing to common sense steps to limit gun violence through background checks, limits on high-capacity magazines and taking weapons of war off our streets.

    “President Obama also made clear that immigration reform must include a path to citizenship. The League believes this is the essential element in immigration reform and we applaud his commitment.

    “On climate change, the League strongly supports action by the President to curb industrial carbon pollution from new and existing power plants and so we were heartened when the President promised to take executive action if the Congress does not move quickly to address this incredible problem.

    “With these positive elements, we were thus surprised and disappointed that the President did not suggest bold action to ensure that every American citizen can exercise the right to vote. Setting up a commission is not a bold step; it is business as usual. The President could have done much better by pointing to real solutions like that in legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill to require early voting, set limits on waiting times, provide for portable voter registration and set up secure online voter registration.”

  •  League Joins Amicus Briefs in Shelby County v. Holder case on Voting Rights Act (VRA)

    Washington, D.C.  – Today, the League of Women Voters of the U.S. announced it has signed onto an amicus brief in the pivotal voting rights case, Shelby County v. Holder.  At issue is whether Congress exceeded its authority under the 15th Amendment to fight racial discrimination in voting by enacting the 2006 amendments to the Voting Right Act (VRA), which were signed into law by President Bush.  Section 5 contains special enforcement provisions covering those areas of the country where Congress demonstrated that significant racial discrimination against voters still continues.

    "The Voting Rights Act is an essential part of American democracy.  The thought that the Supreme Court might overrule Congress and take away voting rights should send a chill down the spine of every American,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League of Women Voters.  “Based upon a record of thousands of pages of testimony, Congress knew what it was doing in 2006.  It would be wrong for the Supreme Court to substitute its will for that of our elected representatives in Congress.”

    The League of Women Voters of South Carolina also joined a brief in this case.  That brief provides a strong narrative specific to the State of South Carolina on current threats to voting rights and how Section 5 has helped improve the situation.

    “The VRA ensures that every American has an equal right to vote and has been one of the most important gateways for voter enfranchisement in the modern era, helping to transform American democracy from a restricted, segregated past to one of remarkable inclusion,” according to Barbara Zia, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.  “Our democracy still needs the Voting Rights Act.”   

    “The importance of this case simply can’t be overstated,” said MacNamara.  “Without a strong VRA, voting rights are left without vital protections, and we can expect to see states consider a range of restrictions on voting and changes to electoral systems unparalleled since the days of Jim Crow.”

    For more than 90 years, the League has worked to protect every American citizen’s right to vote. The League has long supported the VRA as a fundamental guarantee of the rights of American citizenship and has worked for its reauthorization and enforcement. 

    Contact Kelly Ceballos at kceballos@lwv.org to find out more or to schedule an interview.

  • With all the hullaballoo last week over the Supreme Court’s decisions on health care and immigration, it’s not surprising that most people missed a four-line order issued on Thursday, well after the health care decision was announced. But for those of us closely following voter registration issues, those four lines spoke volumes.

  • Today, we wrapped up our 50th biennial national convention in Washington, DC - a great gathering of League members from around the country! We got a lot done and heard from some wonderful speakers including DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton; Annenberg Public Policy Center's Kathleen Hall Jamieson; U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; Trevor Potter, president, Campaign Legal Center; Former Representative Mickey Edwards (R-OK); political reporter Eleanor Clift; and pollster John Zogby.

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  • Washington, DC (April 17, 2012) – The following is a statement by Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League of Women Voters:

    “Today’s 9-2 decision by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Gonzalez v. Arizona is a tremendous win for voting rights.  The Ninth Circuit dealt a blow to attempts to add requirements to the voting process that are unnecessary and will disenfranchise eligible voters. At stake was Arizona’s Proposition 200 which required voters to produce proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote using the federal mail-in registration form.

    “In passing the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), Congress soundly rejected an amendment expressly permitting states to adopt laws like Proposition 200. Today’s nearly unanimous decision recognized that fact.

    “Today’s decision was important for two reasons: First, it invalidates the proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration that would discriminate against otherwise eligible voters in Arizona. Many eligible voters don’t have the necessary documents to prove their citizenship.  Second, it makes clear that the NVRA says that states can’t add additional requirements to the federal voter registration form.

    “This was a huge win for groups fighting to protect voting rights.  The League of Women Voters has pursued this case for several years (this was the third time it was considered in the Ninth Circuit, and we are very happy that the court agreed with the points raised in our amicus brief

    “As the major proponent for the NVRA when it passed Congress, and as an organization that registers thousands of voters every year, the League has a special interest in the case.  Many of our sister organizations also worked on Gonzalez, arguing that the Arizona requirements violated the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Protection Clause, and the constitutional bar on poll taxes, in addition to the NVRA.  In its decision, the Ninth Circuit outlined what groups would have to prove under the Voting Rights Act in order to overturn the requirement for ID at the polls contained in Proposition 200.

    “Overall, this is an important precedent-setting decision that protects the voter registration process for all eligible citizens."

    CONTACT: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org

     

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