Supreme Court ruling on voting rights could open door to minority voting supression?

Brenda Gilmore

Brenda Gilmore

The United States Supreme Court decided on June 25, to strike down a central component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, freeing states, mostly in the South to change their voting laws without advance directives from the Congress.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund that defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court, made the statement below, in reference to the ruling:  “The Supreme Court’s decision today to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act is an act of extraordinary judicial overreach. The Supreme Court ruling takes the most powerful tool our nation has to defend minority voting rights out of commission. By second-guessing Congress’ judgment about which places should be covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has left millions of minority voters without the mechanism that has allowed them to stop voting discrimination before it occurs. This is like letting you keep your car, but taking away the keys. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. Congress must step in.

“In 2006, Congress amassed a 15,000 page record supporting its judgment that minority voters in certain places needed specific protections to be able to participate equally in the political process. The Supreme Court today held that Congress must now return to the drawing board to reconsider which jurisdictions in the country should be covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

At a local NAACP press conference in Nashville on Thursday, June 27, Tennessee Rep. Brenda Gilmore, also a member of the NAACP local executive board, made the following statement:

“Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued a decision that will have dramatic repercussions for poor and minority voters across the nation. The right to vote has not come easily for many of us. Women, African-American and Hispanic voters have had to fight for over a century to be able to participate in the political process – and the Voting Rights Act was an important tool in preventing new forms of discrimination.

“While Tennessee was less affected than other states, the decision by the Supreme Court was a reminder that the right to vote is under constant threat – and we must remain vigilant to combat the efforts of some to reduce or eliminate our access to the ballot box.

“While this decision is disappointing and damaging to our democracy, I hope that we can use this as an opportunity to strengthen and protect our right to vote.

“It is my sincere hope that Congress takes up Rep. Jim Cooper’s call for a 28th Amendment to the United States constitution that will protect the rights of all citizens to exercise their right to vote. In the meantime, I promise to continue our efforts in the state legislature to roll back the discriminatory restrictions placed on voters over recent years.

“The price paid by many civil rights leaders to earn our right to vote was too high for us to turn back now and see our access to the ballot box taken away. We must stand strong and united against these attacks on our rights as citizens and taxpayers of this country,” concluding her statement.