Press Release - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Pressure Builds on Rep. Goodlatte to Hold Hearing on Voting Rights Act Restoration
Evidence of Discrimination, New VRA Restoration Bill, Public Pressure, and Rally in Roanoke put Spotlight on House Judiciary Chair
For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398, email@example.com
June 24, 2015
ROANOKE— In advance of tomorrow’s second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the pressure is building on House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to hold a long overdue hearing on a VRA restoration.
The pressure is coming from all sides, with growing evidence of voting discrimination, including in Goodlatte’s home state; from Congress, which today introduced a new VRA restoration bill; from the public, which widely supports a restoration; and from Goodlatte’s own constituents and voting rights advocates, who are holding a rally tomorrow in his district with an expected turnout of 300-400 concerned Americans.
A Major Rally Tomorrow to Commemorate Shelby Anniversary in Rep. Goodlatte’s District
On Thursday, June 25, hundreds of concerned Americans will join civil rights and voting rights advocates in Roanoke, Virginia’s Elmwood Park to mark the second anniversary of the Shelby decision. The rally will be attended by a large contingent of Roanoke-area residents who will be joined by buses and vans from Richmond and Tidewater, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
Participating organizations have been vocal in their advocacy and have made the following statements:
· Common Cause op-ed in the Roanoke Times: Rally in Roanoke to protect the right to vote
· Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism op-ed in The Hill: People of faith to demand Congress restore the Voting Rights Act
· League of Women Voters letter in the Lynchburg News Advance: Rally for voting rights
· American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee statement: ADC President Samer Khalaf to Speak at Roanoke Rally to Restore Voting Rights and Our Democracy
· Common Cause statement: Common Causers to Rally for Voting Rights in Roanoke
· Project Vote statement: Project Vote to Join Hundreds of Americans in Roanoke Voting Rights Rally on Shelby Anniversary
· JACL statement: JACL to Participate in Roanoke Voting Rights Rally on Shelby Anniversary
· Human Rights Campaign blog: Rally to Restore the Voting Rights Act
· Social media posts: National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Advancing Justice | AAJC, AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Campus Vote Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, National LGBTQ Task Force, APIAVote, America Votes, Project Vote, National Black Justice Coalition, NALEO, National Immigration Law Center, Voter Participation Center, National Action Network, Voter Participation Center
WHERE: Elmwood Park in Roanoke, Virginia
WHEN: Thursday, June 25 – Pre-Rally Program begins at 12:00pm / Rally begins at 1:00pm
SPEAKERS AND PARTICIPANTS: Click here to see a list of confirmed speakers and rally participants.
A New Bicameral Voting Rights Act Introduction and Congressional Interest Following Selma Anniversary
Today, the Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, and Chris Coons and Representatives John Lewis, Terri Sewell, Linda Sanchez, and Judy Chu. This bill is being introduced in both chambers, while the Voting Rights Amendment Act, introduced in the House both last year and again earlier this year, languished under Rep. Goodlatte’s committee chairmanship. The Advancement Act is already drawing praise from voting rights advocates.
Earlier this year, more than 100 lawmakers went to Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march that spurred the nation to pass the Voting Rights Act. Upon their return, many members who had previously been silent on the issue noted the need for conversations and consideration of a VRA restoration in Congress, including:
· Senator Susan Collins, who penned a column in the Portland Press Herald and, while in Selma, said that ‘this trip is going to cause me to take more of a look at that decision.’
· Senator Rob Portman, who told a reporter that ‘because of this trip, I will be more interested.’
· Senator Tim Scott, who co-chaired the event, tweeted ‘access to the ballot for all Americans must be protected. Will be conversations on #VRA as we continue to discuss path forward.’
· Congressman Tom Reed, who even committed to co-sponsor a VRA fix in the House.
Growing Evidence of Discrimination, Even in Virginia
Rep. Goodlatte has continued, as recently as Monday, to claim that there is no evidence of voting discrimination and refuses to hold a hearing to examine multiple reports and court cases documenting instances of racial bias in voting rights nationwide and in his home state of Virginia. Just this month, a federal court found that Virginia’s congressional maps illegally packed Black voters into fewer districts to suppress their influence.
Below are a sampling of reports that have been published in the last year documenting voting discrimination in the wake of Shelby County:
· Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights report: The Persistent Challenge of Voting Discrimination
· Brennan Center report: 'Shelby County': One Year Later
· NALEO Educational Fund report: Latinos and the Voting Rights Act
· Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law report: National Commission on Voting Rights Report
· Center for American Progress and NAACP LDF report: The Battle to Protect the Vote
Growing Public Pressure to Restore the VRA
Recent polling from The Leadership Conference Education Fund found that 81 percent of voters support the Voting Rights Act and 69 percent of voters want Congress to restore it. This support is widespread among voters of all races, parties, and regions of the country. This comes on top of a petition signed by 500,000 Americans urging Congress to restore the VRA. Restoring the Voting Rights Act has already become a topic in the 2016 presidential campaigns.
Quote from Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“In this 50th anniversary year of the Voting Rights Act, voters are more vulnerable to discrimination than at any time since the law was first passed in 1965. Congressional leadership has yet to act on restoring the law and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who represents part of Roanoke and chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has yet to take action to protect voters from discrimination in Virginia and throughout the nation.
“Despite public outcry since the Shelby decision, Rep. Goodlatte has refused to even acknowledge widespread voting discrimination or to allow a hearing in his committee. Virginians currently live under racially gerrymandered districts; they understand that protecting voting rights for all means holding Congress and Rep. Goodlatte accountable for ignoring the responsibility to act.”