On Wednesday, June 5th, local chapters of civil rights and voting groups are taking out full page ads in the Roanoke Times and Richmond Times-Dispatch calling on their members of Congress to move the congressional process forward on the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).
The ads, which were taken out in collaboration with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, highlight the unique influence that Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Eric Cantor have over the future of the VRAA, which would update and modernize the landmark Voting Rights Act to protect voters from discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Shelby County v. Holder. As the ads state, the Voting Rights Act “has protected voters for 50 years, approved time and again by bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed into law by presidents from both parties—from Lyndon Johnson, to Ronald Reagan, to George W. Bush.”
The Roanoke Times ad (Click here for a PDF) highlights Rep. Goodlatte’s role as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where the bipartisan VRAA has been awaiting committee action since its introduction in January. The ad was sponsored by LULAC Council 4609, the League of Women Voters Lynchburg, the Virginia State Conference NAACP, the Roanoke Branch NAACP, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. It says “we are calling on Congress and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to act. A bipartisan bill has been introduced to modernize the Voting Rights Act and provide modern protection to all voters. We urge the House Judiciary Committee to advance this needed legislation, and ensure that no voter is denied his or her right to vote this November.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch ad (Click here for a PDF) highlights Rep. Cantor’s role as House Majority Leader, stating that “every day that goes by without a modern Voting Rights Act is a threat to voters everywhere. Majority Leader Cantor and Congress have the power to modernize protections for all voters. We ask them to move forward on this historic opportunity.” The ad was signed by the Virginia State Conference NAACP, LULAC Council 4609, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The Richmond Times-Dispatch buy also includes online banner ads targeting Rep. Cantor’s constituents.
Below are quotes from organizations who signed on to the ads:
Joan MacCallum, President of the League of Women Voters of Lynchburg
“The League of Women Voters of Lynchburg is counting on Congress to come together to restore the Voting Rights Act after a bipartisan group of legislators introduced H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. Protecting the right to vote is something that every member of Congress should be able to agree on. It has been nearly six months after the legislation was introduced and little progress has been made to keep it moving forward. Lynchburg’s own, Representative Bob Goodlatte, has the power to move this legislation to the next level as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Chairman Goodlatte, the right to vote is not about politics or the outcome of elections; it is about equality and justice. Virginians and all Americans deserve to hear a debate on this issue. We’re counting on you to move this legislation to the next level.”
Vivian Sanchez-Jones, LULAC Supporter/Community Organizer (Roanoke, VA)
“Congress must pass a Voting Rights Act Amendment that meets the needs of the 21st century. LULAC urges Chairman Goodlatte to give the VRAA real consideration and move the bill through the legislative process. Every month, more than 52,000 young Latinos turn 18, many of whom are U.S. born citizens and eligible to vote. LULAC believes that the cornerstone of our democracy is the right of every American citizen to vote. Passage of an effective VRAA ensures that the right of every American to vote is respected. It also helps to encourage greater participation, particularly for young people, who may be casting their first ballot in the next election.”
“The rights of voters in Virginia and across the Nation hang in the balance. People deserve a voting process that is fair, equitable and non-intimidating. We will continue to fight to ensure these rights are protected.”
Below are recent objections to the Voting Rights Act in Virginia:
Northampton County (2003) – In 2003, the county proposed a redistricting plan and the realignment of voting precincts. The benchmark plan contained two black majority districts in which black voters had been able to elect candidates of choice in two districts. However, the proposed plan had only one such district while eliminating the ability of black voters to elect their candidates of choice in the other district. DOJ concluded that minority voting strength was unnecessarily reduced in the county.
Northampton County (2003) – In 2002, the county proposed a redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors and the realignment of voting precincts. Under the benchmark plan, black voters have been able to elect candidates of choice in three districts. The proposed plan had no district in which black persons constitute a majority of the voting age population. In the ten years prior to 2003, no black-preferred candidate had won in a district in which whites were a majority of the voting age population. The analysis of electoral behavior indicated that a reduction in the black voting age population had the potential for a significant difference in the ability of black voters to elect a candidate of choice.
Cumberland County (2002) – The county proposed a new redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors. At the time, District 3 was the only district in which black persons constituted a majority of the total population. However, under the proposed plan the black population in that district would be reduced as would the black voting age population.
Pittsylvania County and Pittsylvania County School District (2002) – The proposed change referred to a 2001 redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education. The county proposed a plan would have reduced the black population in the only district in which black persons were a majority of the population to below 50%. DOJ analysis showed that the level of racial polarization in the county was extreme, such that any reduction would have called into question the continued ability of black voters to elect their candidates of choice.
Northampton County (2001) – The county proposed to change the method of election for the Board of Supervisors from six single-member districts to three double-member districts, as well as a new redistricting plan for the Board of Supervisors, and the realignment of voting precincts. Under the existing method of election, black voters had been able to elect candidates of their choice to office in three districts. The proposed plan did not contain any districts in which minorities constituted a majority of the voting age population. DOJ determined that minority voters would not have had the same opportunity under the proposed plan that they had under the existing plan to elect even two candidates of choice.