While greatly disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court took the teeth out of the 1965 Voting Rights Act this Tuesday, civil rights advocates said they would use the death of the law as a chance to mobilize progressives to protect minority rights to vote.
The first order of business for the civil rights community is to get Congress to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, said civil rights advocates on a conference call Wednesday organized by ColorOfChange.org, an online civil rights organization that works to empower Black America’s political voice.
“The only way to guarantee free elections is one national system for everyone,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org. “We need a constitutional amendment for the right to vote.”
Robinson said that while the U.S. Constitution talks broadly about voting, it lacks a specific guarantee for the freedom to vote. He said that with 13,000 separate voting districts around the country, there are 13,000 different ways that elections are conducted, opening the doors to discriminatory practices to disenfranchise minority voters. “Under this patchwork system, the states can make up there own rules,” Robinson added.
In many respects, the call was more of a eulogy for the Voting Rights Act that was effectively killed by the High Court at the age of 48.
It was a history of discrimination in voting that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which is widely credited with ensuring voting rights for minorities in mostly southern states with a history of suppressing black voter turnout. The Supreme Court, however, found on Tuesday that, since significant advances have been made in protecting minority voting rights, the law needed to be reexamined by striking down its key Section 4 provision.