WASHINGTON – Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. People For the American Way Foundation released the following statement:
“The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Michael Keegan. “The Voting Rights Act, especially Section 5, has been a central part of safeguarding that right for nearly fifty years and continues to play a vital role in protecting Americans from disenfranchisement. The 2012 election cycle provided far too many examples that threats  to voting access – in the form of voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting, and inequitable distribution of resources leading to excessively long waiting times for certain communities to vote – are alive and well. If we want a functioning democracy, everyone has to have access to the ballot box.
“The 15th Amendment of the Constitution is very clear on this issue: the right to vote cannot be denied on account of race, and Congress has the power to protect that right as it finds appropriate,” Keegan continued. “When, after a comprehensive analysis, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it was simply doing its job. For right wing Justices on the Supreme Court to substitute their own political judgment would be a radical and unwarranted step and send a chilling message to millions of Americans who are seeing more and more burdens placed on their right to vote.”
“Voting discrimination is deeply rooted in our country’s history,” added Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council at People For the American Way Foundation. “It’s stunning to me that some say this law is no longer needed, when in the past election cycle we witnessed and fought  attempts to make it harder for communities of color to vote all across the country. The right to vote remains fragile for many Americans, and the Voting Rights Act is an essential tool in protecting that right.”
For more information on the Voting Rights Act, please refer to the new PFAW Foundation report  from Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin outlining the legal case for why the VRA is still necessary, or the new Huffington Post op-ed  from Minister Leslie Watson Malachi describing the challenges that people of color still face at the ballot box nearly half a century after the VRA’s passage.