The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Why You Should Care About the Voting Rights Act
The foundation of our democratic form of government is the right to vote. Voting is the most important tool Americans have to influence the policies the government adopts that affect every aspect of our lives - from tax policy, to preserving our environment, to protecting equal opportunity in housing and employment. In short, voting is power. Unfortunately, even today, many minority voters face impediments or barriers to voting.
Throughout much of our nation's history, large numbers of Americans have been denied the right to vote.
- Women were denied a federal right to vote until the Constitution was amended in 1920.
- Native Americans were denied the right to vote until 1924, when the Indian Citizenship Act granted them citizenship and the right to vote.
- Chinese Americans could not vote until the Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882 and 1892 were repealed in 1943.
- Until 1952, first-generation Japanese Americans could not vote because of the racial restrictions of the 1790 Naturalization Law.
- African Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest were often systematically denied the right to vote until the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 permanently outlawed direct barriers to political participation by racial and ethnic minorities, and required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in voting to obtain federal approval before making any changes to voting practices or procedures.
- Language minority citizens were often denied needed assistance at the polls until the 1975 amendments to the VRA required such assistance be provided.
Despite these victories, discrimination in voting continues. Examples include:
- In 2004, in the City of Ville Platte, Louisiana, city officials attempted to perform a radical redistricting that would have reduced the number of districts in which the Black community had an opportunity to elect candidates of choice from 4 to 3, by packing Black voters into an overwhelmingly Black district and reducing Black population in a neighboring district to 38%. However, since Louisiana is covered by Section 5 of the VRA, the 2003 redistricting plan had to be submitted to the Department of Justice before it was put into effect. And because the Department concluded that the plan was discriminatory, it could not be implemented.
- In Texas in 2003, Bexar county officials sought to undermine Latino voting strength by failing to place polling places near those communities during a special election where a Constitutional amendment was on the ballot. Using the special provisions of the VRA, Latino advocates were able to obtain expedited relief from the local district court that prevented the Latino voters from being silenced in the election.
- As recently as last year, a federal court determined that South Dakota discriminated against Native-American voters by packing them into a single district to remove their ability to elect a representative of their choice to the state legislature.
- In 2003, Harris County elections officials failed to provide bilingual voting materials required under the VRA in Vietnamese until local advocates and the Department of Justice compelled them do so. A Vietnamese candidate later won a legislative seat there.