WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 19th Amendment’s promise of suffrage for women unfortunately did not provide actual safe access to the ballot box for women of color, nor did it include nationwide suffrage for American Indian women. It took the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 to finally outlaw discriminatory voting practices that were hijacking our democracy from people of color and other marginalized groups. These rights have been and continue to be under siege since constitutional authority was instituted. As we near the 100th anniversary of the final ratification of women’s right to vote being enshrined in the constitution, we must remember the legitimacy of our democracy depends on everyone’s full participation.
The VRA has been essential to preventing voter suppression in communities of color for decades. But in 2013, five Supreme Court justices gutted the pre-clearance provision of this vital law in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, thereby making it easier for certain states to resume racist practices that restrict the voting rights of African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American people. It is far past time to right this grievous wrong and restore equal access to the voting booths for all Americans, especially women of color.
That is why NOW is proudly standing with our coalition partners across the country for Shelby Week, being held June 24-June 30, to demand that Congress reinstate protections against racial discrimination in voting by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the VRA to its full authority. This bill would help to stem the rolling tide of voter disenfranchisement efforts nationwide, which include strict voter ID laws, limited access to the polling places, restricting ballot pickups and the elimination of early voting.
Every voice must be heard in the voting booth to make progress on important racial justice and women’s issues such as pay discrimination, educational equity, immigrants’ rights, domestic violence and much more. Americans want a system that works for every voter, and Congress must deliver by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure that we have the tools we need to address racial discrimination in voting.