NAACP Testifies Before Congress, Holds Rallies Nationwide to Protect Voting Rights for All

One year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) today told the Senate Judiciary Committee that eligible voters are now more likely to be disenfranchised and discriminated against. In addition, NAACP branches in Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, South Carolina and other states are holding rallies to mobilize community members to protect the right to vote.

Reverend Francys Johnson, NAACP Georgia State Conference President testified that since Shelby, “We are witnessing the wholesale elimination and changing of polling locations; significant changes in the methods of electing school board, town and city council members; a rush to move to at-large districts; and limiting early voting that have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote.”

As an example of the difference in Georgia, Johnson described how the town of Athens with a population of over 118,000, almost 30% of whom are African American, considered eliminating nearly half of its 24 polling places, and replacing them with only two early voting centers—both of which would be located inside police stations.  Community members raised concerns that the location of the new centers would intimidate some voters including those of color.

Dr. Johnson's prepared testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee is available here.

In July 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, single handedly freezing the use of Section 5, and thus allowing jurisdictions to pass and implement election laws unchecked. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, nine states and approximately 41 other jurisdictions were required to submit election law changes for pre-approval before implementation.

“The elimination of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has opened the door to all sorts of mischief inside our Nation’s sacred voting box, and as such we risk the disenfranchisement of whole segments of our society,” said Lorraine C. Miller, NAACP Interim President and CEO. “ The right to vote for all is under threat and the time to act is now.”

The Brennan Center reported that of the 11 states with the highest turnout of African-American voters in 2008, seven have new restrictions in place. In addition, of the 12 states with the largest growth of Latino population from 2000-2010, 9 states made laws making it more difficult to vote.

The bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) would provide common sense solutions to prevent discrimination against all voters regardless of race, including remedies to address current discrimination as it is occurring, an ability to review voting changes in places that have engaged in discrimination in the present and recent past, and better public notification of potential voting changes to enhance accountability.

“We applaud the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for holding today’s hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “We are hopeful the Senate hearing will lift up the current challenges voters – particularly people of color, the elderly, youth and low-income citizens -- face across the country, and demonstrate the continuing need for an effective Voting Rights Act voter discrimination prevention provision.”

Citing bipartisan co-sponsors and support from the civil rights community, the NAACP called on the House Leadership and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to hold hearings. “The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act made clear that Congress has the authority and obligation to fix the VRA; protecting the fundamental right to vote,” Jotaka Eaddy, NAACP Senior Advisor to the President and CEO and Senior Director of Voting Rights.

“What this Congress does with the Voting Rights Act is the real measure of this Nation’s commitment to free, fair, and accessible elections.  The United States must never again permit racial discrimination to silence our witness of freedom and darken our light of liberty in this world.”

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our five “Game Changer” issue areas here.