The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.
Sadly, today the Voting Rights Act does not offer the same protections it did for those 50 years from 1965. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. In its Shelby County v. Holder decision, the court weakened vital voter protections.
Since then Congress has done nothing to repair the damage. Currently there are various proposals before Congress, but it has taken no action. No legislation has passed.
What does that mean? Voter discrimination at ballot boxes across the nation has become more pronounced. We are dangerously close to holding our first presidential election in 50 years without critical protections that the Voting Rights Act once guaranteed many Americans. How can we be content with that?
As Americans, it is up to us to ensure that each and every eligible voter is treated fairly and has free and equal access to the ballot. The League of Women Voters urges anyone and everyone who believes in equality to stand up for fair treatment.
During the August congressional recess, we urge you as voters to be loud and very clear that the right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. Tell Congress that now is the time to restore the Voting Rights Act.
The League of Women Voters has been standing its ground in the fight against discrimination and for voting rights protections for 95 years, and restoring the Voting Rights Act is an important step to keep our elections fair, free and accessible.
Our fight for empowerment goes hand-in-hand with our fight to combat voter apathy. In any community, it is difficult to ensure that all citizens feel empowered or to encourage voter involvement when elected officials express racist and hateful remarks and nothing changes. These kinds of statements are divisive, and they are a deterrent to civility and public involvement. Incendiary remarks that single out particular groups or individuals are not consistent with an atmosphere of respect and fairness. This hate speech has real effects. When a prominent person expresses himself or herself in this way, whether publicly or privately, we can reasonably expect his or her words to have a significant impact.
We urge you to contact your representatives by email, letter or phone to encourage them to restore the Voting Rights Act to its full power. When constituents reach out, legislators listen, but unfortunately, too few of us make the effort.
There is also action that we need to take here, in our own community. While it may not have any legislative power, it is powerful still. We can honor the spirit of the Voting Rights Act, which was intended to protect and honor the power that each and every one of us has as a citizen of our country, state and community.
The Voting Rights Act was an attempt to ensure equality in our democracy, but we have to remember that ultimately the power is in our hands. It is important to exert this power not only at the ballot box, but also every day that passes in between elections. The League of Women Voters of Knoxville and Knox County encourages you to exert your power in many ways, both big and small. Hold your representatives accountable, attend a public meeting, express your opinion and, of course, show up on Election Day.
By Rynn Dupes and first published in KNS on 8/6/15
1. What was the greatest expansion of voting rights since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965?
2. What was one of the League of Women Voters' most important victories in our 95-year history?
Here's a hint--both questions have the same answer, and it was signed into law 22 years ago today.
It's the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)!
More than 20 years since it was enacted, the NVRA remains an essential law that protects the integrity of federal elections across the country, while also making voter registration easy and accessible for millions of Americans.
The League was a key player in the passage of the law, which has greatly improved our voter registration work.
The vision that drove the passage of NVRA is simple: the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy.
That simple vision is at the heart of everything the League does. It's a vision we'll keep fighting for. For 95 years, we've worked to help new voters engage with their government and to empower people to tackle the most important issues facing our communities. The League continues to be at the forefront of helping voters register to vote, cast their ballot and make sure that vote is counted.
Thank you for Making Democracy Work!
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