Ohio Voter Rights Coalition Blog; The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition: The Voting Rights Amendment Act

The Voting Rights Amendment Act

Congress must protect voters by passing The VRAA  

June 25, 2014 was the one year anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder decision, which struck down a key provision of The Voting Rights Act.

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7/10/2014
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives
7969 Cincinnati-Dayton Road
West Chester, Ohio 45069

Dear Speaker Boehner,

We the undersigned organizations urge you to call a vote on H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).  No right is more important or fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote. 

Wednesday July 2 marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of legislation that laid the ground work for key voting protections for African Americans.  The Civil Rights Act sought to fulfill the promise of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the laws, including access to the ballot box.  However, it ultimately took the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for the federal government to be able to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But for a Republican from Ohio, the Civil Rights Act might not have passed. William McCulloch of Piqua, Ohio was the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and an ardent supporter of civil rights.  Despite political pressure from his district to oppose the Civil Rights Act, McCulloch delivered the necessary votes to pass the controversial bill.

Now, 50 years later, the call to renew the Voting Rights Act could not be more urgent.  As fate would have it, you represent McCulloch’s home district, and you have the opportunity to carry on McCulloch’s legacy by ensuring the full protections of the Voting Rights Act are restored for all Americans.   Mr. Speaker, we urge you to wield your power to get the Voting Rights Amendment Act passed: first by ensuring that the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing, and then by calling for a vote on the House floor.

Despite great progress in the last 50 years, voting discrimination continues to be a problem.  For this reason, a forward-looking and effective VRAA is essential to ensuring that no voter is denied the right to vote and everyone has that right protected equally.  The legacy of the Civil Rights Act depends on the passage of the VRAA, and the VRAA cannot pass if you do not call a vote.  

 In order to build momentum created by recent hearing by the Senate Judiciary’s Committee, the vote must be scheduled before Congress recesses in August.  Two weeks ago we submitted over 2200 petitions to your office all urging you to take swift action on the VRAA.  Protecting the right to vote has always been a bipartisan issue, and we are encouraged by your strong support of the Voting Rights Act renewal in 2006 about which you said:
“The Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy and renewing this landmark law will ensure that each and every citizen can continue to exercise their right to vote without the threat of intimidation or harassment.”
Please protect Ohioans once again by fixing the Voting Rights Act and call for a vote on the VRAA before August recess.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Common Cause Ohio, Independent Ohio, Innovation Ohio, IUE-CWA, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP National Voter Fund, Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Conference NAACP, Ohio Unity Coalition, Ohio Voice, Ohio Women with Disabilities Network, and Progress Ohio

Ohio Voter Rights Coalition
C/o Camille Wimbish
172 E. State Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Note to Readers: Learn more about the VRAA here.

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A group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act (#VRAA) that restores the Act's full protections–unfortunately that legislation has stalled in the House of Representatives. It is the responsibility of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH8) to schedule a vote for the full House of Representatives, and he failed to do so before Congress went on vacation for the month of August.

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Press Release June 26, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Camille Wimbish
camille@statevoices.org
(614) 236-3415

Voter Advocates Urge Congress to Revise Formula for Voting Rights Act Coverage

(Columbus, Ohio) – The Ohio Fair Elections Network, a coalition of national, state and
local fair elections advocates, denounced today’s vote by the Supreme Court to render a
key portion of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, and urges Congress to update the
formula used to determine which jurisdictions must seek approval from Congress before
changing its voting laws. In 5-4 vote, the Court held that the Section 4(b) formula that
Congress most recently renewed in 2006, relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect
racial progress in America.

“You only need to look as far back as the 2012 election and the numerous attempts by
state legislators to enact voter suppression bills to see that the Voting Rights Act is still
needed.” Donita Judge of Advancement Project stated, “Nationally, photo ID laws
spread like wildfire all across this country, and politicians introduced over 200 bills
designed to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote.” Camille Wimbish of
Ohio Voice reflected on the suppressive tactics seen here in Ohio. “We would be remiss
to forget about the deceptive billboards placed in minority neighborhoods in Cleveland,
Columbus and Cincinnati, the hundreds of frivolous challenges filed in an attempt to
knock eligible voters off the rolls, or the fight all the way to the Supreme Court to restore
early voting the weekend before the election.”

Ellis Jacobs of the Miami Voter Protection Coalition reminded, “It was less than two
months ago, that the Ohio legislature attempted to restrict the ability of college students
to vote.” He explained, “All of these examples underscore the need for Congress to act
quickly to reinstate the full protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that our
nation’s elections remain free, fair and accessible to all citizens.”

OFEN will be reaching out to other voter advocates to encourage Congress to act now to
revise the formula so that Section 5 of the VRA can be enforced when needed to protect
voter rights.

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For immediate release
June 25, 2014

Contact: Angela Tombazzi
(614) 625-9619 angela@statevoices.org

WEST CHESTER, OH— One year after the U.S. Supreme Court significantly weakened key protections for voters across the nation, advocates gathered at Speaker John Boehner’s district office in West Chester, Ohio.  They delivered a petition from more than 2,000 Ohio voters urging him to schedule a vote on the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

“On this anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder decision, the Senate is holding a hearing on the Voting Rights Act Amendment,” said Tom Roberts of the NAACP Ohio Conference.  “It’s time for the House to hold up its end of the bargain.  This bipartisan bill updates the Voting Rights Act to protect against discrimination. The right to vote is the most fundamental right of our democracy, and we urge both Houses of Congress to act before the November election.”
  
Advocates gathered at Speaker John Boehner’s district office in West Chester, Ohio 
and delivered a petition from more than 2,000 Ohio voters
On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section V of the Voting Rights Act. The VRAA is sponsored by US Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and co-sponsors include US Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio 1st District).  The identical Senate version is sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). Both were introduced on January 16, 2014. Yet the House Judiciary Committee has yet to even schedule a hearing on this necessary, bipartisan legislation.
 
“It is past time for the House to advance the Voting Rights Act Amendment.  This bipartisan bill enjoys strong support from the civil rights community,” said Deidra Reese of Ohio Voice.  “The Voting Rights Act was bipartisan and the Speaker supported the most recent authorization.” 

In 2006, Speaker Boehner praised the Voting Rights Act as “an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy” and stated that the renewal of “this landmark law will ensure that each and every citizen can continue to exercise their right to vote without the threat of intimidation of harassment.”

Key provisions of the Voting Rights Amendment Act include: requiring the public to be widely notified of voting changes made within 180 days of an election, enhancing the ability of groups to freeze potentially discriminatory voting changes, and making it easier to add jurisdictions to preclearance coverage through litigation by removing the requirement to prove that the voting violations were intentional.

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If you aren't already receiving activist updates from OVRC, click here

6/16/2014 Leahy announces June 25 hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act6/16/2014 Senate panel to examine voting rights fix
6/16/2014 Eric Cantor's last, legacy-burnishing task: Update the VRA
6/17/2014 NAACP Applauds Senate Hearing on Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014  

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6/6/14 Action Alert: Tell House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on the VRAA

Congress must protect voters by passing The Voting Rights Amendment Act before Congress recesses in August.

One year has passed since the Shelby v. Holder decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The Shelby case is troubling because it gutted a critical piece of civil rights legislation that has helped protect this country from racial discrimination in voting since 1965.



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