• North Carolina Politicians Target College Students’ Right to Vote

    League of Women Voters Calls on Department of Justice and Congress to Act without Delay

    Raleigh, North Carolina - In yet another assault on voters, officials in North Carolina have announced plans to shut down early voting sites and challenge student voter residency on historically black colleges. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina urges the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do everything in their power to protect the voters of North Carolina and calls on Congress to repair and restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA). “Last week we saw the most anti-voter legislation in the country be signed into law and this week we are seeing an attack on college and university students’ voting rights. The threat to voting is real and anti-democratic forces are upon us,” said Jo Nicholas, President of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. 

    The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the: Chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections plans to eliminate an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University; Watauga Board of Elections voted to close the voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone; and, Pasquotank County Board of Elections officials voted to deny an Elizabeth City State University senior from running for city council, ruling that his on-campus address couldn't be used to establish residency.

    Forty-eight years ago this week President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic Voting Rights Act (VRA) into law. Unfortunately, earlier this summer the U.S. Supreme Court erased fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting that have been critical in protecting our democracy. “Nowhere is the detrimental impact of this decision more evident than here in North Carolina. Politicians wasted no time in implementing new barriers for all voters and are now specifically targeting racial minorities and college students. Without the protections of the VRA, North Carolina’s politicians are free to allow our dark prejudicial past to rush into the present,” added Ms. Nicholas.

    “The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, along with our coalition partners, is doing everything in our power to protect our democracy and ensure that all citizens have access to free and fair elections. Last week we joined with our coalition partners in legal challenges to the new voter suppression law and this week we once again call on the DOJ to use all means at their disposal to see that these anti-voter laws and voting changes get swept into the dustbin of history where they belong and we call on Congress to act swiftly to restore the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act,” concluded Ms. Nicholas.

    Contact: Jo Nicholas, lwvncpresident1@gmail.com, (910) 673-3604

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    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

     

  • SUPREME COURT ERASES PROTECTIONS AGAINST RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN VOTING

    Congress Must Act Quickly to Restore the Voting Rights Act

    Washington, D.C.  – “Today is a sad day in America: Through its decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court erased fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting that have been effective for more than 40 years,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “Only strong action from Congress can fix this huge mistake made by the Court.”

    “Today, the Court weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA) as a mechanism to fight discrimination by striking down Section 4, which determines the states and jurisdictions that must secure federal approval before changing election laws,” said MacNamara. “We believe that today’s Supreme Court decision is naïve. The fact that the Department of Justice blocked over 700 voting changes they found to be discriminatory from 1982 through the VRA’s 2006 reauthorization speaks for itself.”

    “The impact of this decision on voters will be significant and far-reaching,” MacNamara said. “This decision will only embolden those who seek to create barriers to voters’ rights. Without a strong VRA, our ability to fight off anti-voter legislation and keep our elections free, fair and accessible is significantly weakened.”

    During the 2006 Congressional reauthorization of the VRA, a record of thousands of pages of testimony helped illustrate the continuing problems in covered jurisdictions. Overwhelmingly bi-partisan Congressional action was taken based on a solid case for the continued need of the VRA.

    “The progress we have made eliminating discrimination in voting is because of the VRA and its enforcement over the past four decades,” said MacNamara. As Justice Ginsberg wrote in her Shelby dissent:

    “In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding. Beyond question, the VRA is no ordinary legislation. It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment. For a half century, a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.”

    “We need the VRA to combat these ‘second-generation barriers’ and the pernicious discrimination that is less visible than what occurred decades ago but no less harmful to the right to vote,” MacNamara said.

    “We will be going to Congress to fix this issue and ask them to restore the VRA to its full strength,” said MacNamara. “Solutions for voters are required on an issue as fundamental as the voting rights of all Americans.”

    “The Shelby decision is a great disappointment,” concluded MacNamara, “but it should also be a great call to action by those who believe in free and fair access by every eligible voter. Congress must act and voters must vote at every opportunity.”

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

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  • The Voting Rights Act Remains Critical Safeguard of the Right to Vote

    Washington, D.C. (February 27, 2013)  – Today, Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S., joined civil rights leaders, members of Congress and activists on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to speak out in support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  This morning the court heard arguments in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case that examines the constitutionality of Section 5 of the VRA, landmark legislation that outlaws racial discrimination in state voting practices, and its critical enforcement mechanism.

    “While we’ve made immense progress to expand the right to vote, so much remains to be done, especially as the American electorate continues to diversify,” said MacNamara. “The recent onslaught of anti-voter state legislation further fuels the urgency and need for Section 5 as the tool to keep our elections free, fair and accessible.”

    “Today, the threat to these key principles is real and growing. Anti-voter legislation has swept the country, putting the very foundation of our democracy at risk by erecting new barriers to the polls, restricting voter registration efforts, shortening voting periods and illegally purging voter lists,” MacNamara added.

    “Section 5 has helped transform American democracy from a restricted, segregated past to one of remarkable inclusion,” said MacNamara.  “The enormity of this threat cannot be overstated. The importance of the outcome of this case cannot be overstated. We are here today to sound the alarm and so that the voices of our fellow citizens are not silenced.”

    In their work protecting voters, Leagues around the country have used Section 5 as a critical safeguard to protect the rights of all voters.  The League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina have submitted amicus briefs in this case and were present at the hearings in Washington, DC.

    “For those who argue Section 5 is no longer necessary need look no further than my home state of South Carolina,” said Barbara Zia, President of the South Carolina LWV.  “Using Section 5, the League and our partners were able to battle back and overturn a discriminatory voter ID law. The VRA protected the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians and in doing so protected the very foundation of our great democracy - our right to vote and have our votes counted.”

    “Surely, the problems exposed by the 2012 elections—long lines, shortened early voting hours, and more-- should be an impetus for the Court to more fully enforce the laws that protect our voting rights, not take them away,” concluded MacNamara.  “The thought that the Supreme Court might overrule Congress, and take away voting rights should send a chill down the spine of every American.”

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