Statement of Sylvia Albert, Common Cause Director of Voting & Elections
Every American deserves to have their votes counted and voices heard. But since the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted the Voting Rights Act seven years ago today, Americans have been systematically stripped of their ability to vote in numbers not seen since the Jim Crow era. Instead of poll taxes and literacy tests, modern day vote suppressors use poll closures, voter purges, and other devious tactics to silence Americans. Those abuses have continued even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic forcing too many citizens to choose whether to give up their right to vote or endanger their health by standing in long lines in order to cast their ballot.
Current Attorney General William Barr has only made matters worse with his politicization of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and refusal to enforce what is left of the Voting Rights Act. We have seen a sad and endless parade of laws passed to suppress the vote of minority communities since Shelby was passed down, but for most of those years DOJ fought to overturn those voting rights abuses. Under William Barr however, DOJ has not only ceased to challenge efforts to suppress minority voting, the department has begun to actively intervene in support of these efforts.
The damage done by Shelby to voting rights in America is compounded annually and points to the desperate need for Congress to pass new legislation to protect every citizen’s right to vote. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act in December to help stop curb the suppression of voting rights. It is time for the Senate to follow suit in order to restore the rights of every American to cast a ballot and make their voice heard on Election Day.