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A New Voting Rights Act for Today

Now is the time to stand up for voting rights. Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to update and modernize the Voting Rights Act, a landmark law that protects voters from discriminatory voting practices. Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, R. Wisc., John Conyers, D. Mich., Steve Chabot, R. Ohio, John Lewis, D. Ga., Spencer Bachus, R. Ala., Bobby Scott, D. Va., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D. Texas., and others introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 on January 16. Senator Patrick Leahy, D. Vt., introduced a companion bill in the Senate on the same day.

Despite great progress, voting discrimination continues to be a problem. That’s why a forward-looking and effective VRA is essential to ensuring that no voter is denied the right to vote and everyone has that right protected equally. Commonsense improvements to the VRA will ensure that voters everywhere are protected by truly modern, 21st century safeguards.

To support this important bipartisan legislation, we’ve relaunched our campaign website as VRAforToday.org, which will serve as the hub for the civil and human rights community working to enact this bill. This site will contain all the latest information about the bill and related activity.

Sign up for more information.

Vargas: Let’s Ensure the Promise of America’s Democracy Remains a Reality for All

In National Journal yesterday, Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), emphasized the importance of fair voting practices in the wake of last year’s Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision. Given that there are 23.5 million Latino citizens of voting age, and considering the unfair targeting of Latino voters in areas across the country, the need for modern legislation – the Voting Rights Amendment Act – is clear.

It’s essential that we have the tools provided by a modern, effective VRA to address the current discriminatory practices that threaten the rights of Latinos and others to vote and to shape this country. Protecting the right to vote isn’t a partisan issue and it isn’t about who wins or loses elections. It’s about common sense steps that will guard the right of everyone to vote, no matter their race, where they live, or what language they speak. Let’s ensure the promise of America’s democracy remains a reality for all.

Bloody Sunday Anniversary Events in Selma to Highlight Need for VRAA

A number of events this weekend in commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march will take place in Selma, Alabama, including the Faith & Politics Institute’s 14th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund’s (LDF) discussion titled “Keeping America’s Promise: Defending Democracy in the Wake of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.”

The civil rights pilgrimage runs from March 7-9 and will travel with Pilgrimage Chairman Rep. John Lewis from the Mississippi Delta to Selma, Alabama, where participants will commemorate the 1965 Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing.

LDF’s voting rights panel will take place on Saturday, March 8, at the Saint James Hotel in Selma and will feature Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of LDF, Leslie Proll, director of LDF’s Washington, D.C. office, Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, and Jerome Gray, a civil rights activist in Evergreen, Ala., who was improperly removed from the city’s voting rolls.

And to see a full list of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee’s events, please click here.

Lewis: Congress Should Restore Voting Rights Act

Citing the historically bipartisan nature of the Voting Rights Act and its reauthorizations, Voting Rights Amendment Act co-sponsor Rep. John Lewis penned an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, calling the protections “still a very necessary requirement of democracy.”

“In a democracy such as ours, the right to vote is precious. It is almost sacred,” Lewis said. “It is the most powerful nonviolent tool the people have in a democratic society. Congress has a duty to restore these provisions right now. It is not a partisan issue — it is an American issue.”

Read the full op-ed here.

VRAA Bridges Partisan Gap with Support from Most Liberal and Conservative House Members

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According to National Journal’s ranking of the most liberal and conservative members of Congress, the Voting Rights Amendment Act has bridged the partisan gap with both the number one ranked liberal and conservative members as co-sponsors.

National Journal ranks original VRAA cosponsor Steve Chabot, R. Ohio, as the most conservative member of the House, and ranks another cosponsor, Mike Honda, D. Calif., as tied for the most liberal member. In a Congress that National Journal has termed “the most divided ever,” lawmakers from both the extreme right and the extreme left have come together in support of protecting everyone’s right to vote.

“The VRAA is a commonsense and flexible update to the Voting Rights Act that everyone can agree on, regardless of race, geography, or ideology,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “While we have made great strides as a country, we know that discrimination is still a reality in too many places. The need for an effective, modern day VRA that responds to 21st century discrimination across the country is vital to our democracy. We look forward to working through the legislative process to improve this bill and pass it in 2014.”

Click here to see the current House co-sponsors of the VRAA.

Groups Respond to Legislation’s Bipartisan Introduction

When the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act was introduced on January 16, a number of civil and human rights organizations were joined by faith and labor groups to express support for the bill which – while imperfect – provides modern, forward-looking steps to protect everyone’s right to vote.

Newspapers Around the Country Endorse Commensense Voting Rights Admendment Act

Across the country, the bipartisan introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act is being recognized as a modern, commonsense fix to Shelby County v. Holder in its protection of the right to vote for all.

Nationally, the editorial board at The New York Times and Dewayne Wickham of Gannett Newspapers/USA Today remind us that, even though the bill is not perfect, it’s a good step forward in ensuring voters’ rights. And on BET.com, Lorraine Miller, interim president and CEO of the NAACP says that “It is time for Congress to act urgently, and with bipartisanship, to update the Voting Rights Act to ensure all citizens, no matter their race, gender or social status, have equal and unfettered access to the ballot box.”

And in the states, editorial boards throughout the nation have responded to the bill’s introduction:

California

Massachusetts

Pennsylvania

Texas

Virginia

Wisconsin

Rocky Mount Telegram: Congress Must Act to Protect Voting Rights

The Rocky Mount Telegram, a North Carolina-based newspaper, called on lawmakers to act to protect the right of everyone to vote following the bipartisan introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act. “The legislation is a rare compromise plan crafted across party lines but faces an uncertain future in the partisan gridlock of Congress,” according to the editorial. “Voting is one of the most basic and cherished rights of a democracy, and lawmakers should act to ensure that no state or local government denies its citizens that right.”

Read the full editorial here.

Latinos in Yakima, WA to Wait Two Years for VRA Case Court Hearing

A court date has finally been set in a Voting Rights Act (VRA) lawsuit filed two years ago on behalf of Latinos in Yakima, Washington. On May 27, 2014, the U.S. District Court in Yakima will hear the case, which was brought under Section 2 of the VRA and filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Latinos comprise 41.3 percent of Yakima’s population, yet no Latino has ever been elected to the city council, which is made up entirely of at-large districts.

Section 2 cases are typically brought after a discriminatory voting law has been implemented. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision in June striking down Section 4 of the VRA, Section 2I is one of the few  remaining tools to prohibit racial discrimination in voting.

Section 2 cases often involve lengthy legal battles and require large amounts of funding to sustain the long-term legal fees associated with such drawn out cases.

Read more here: http://www.yakimaherald.com/home/1591690-8/long-road-before-trial-in-yakima-aclu-voting

Largest Alaska Native group says VRA decision begins “a new era in the struggle to protect the voices of Native voters.”

At the Alaska Federation of Natives’ (AFN) annual convention, AFN President Julie Kitka criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, noting that it ignores Alaska’s history of voter discrimination. She said, “The ensuing loosening of federal protections opens the door in Alaska to abuses, redistricting issues and worrisome legislation…”

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R. Alaska, who voted for VRA reauthorization in 2006, also addressed the convention.

The Alaska Federation of Natives is the largest organization of Native Alaskans in the state, comprising 178 villages, 13 regional Native corporations and 12 regional nonprofit and tribal consortia. As Kitka describes the activities at its conference this year, “our primary objective is to do everything in our power to maintain a strong and steady, unified voice for all Alaska Natives.”

Read more here: http://juneauempire.com/state/2013-10-25/alaska-federation-natives-undergoes-restructuring#.Um6oR3BebTp

And here: http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/afn-president-candidate-for-governor-address-convention/article_9d4932ae-3d25-11e3-be7d-0019bb30f31a.html

Sensenbrenner Calls for VRA Restoration at CATO Institute

In remarks made at an October 9 CATO Institute event on NSA surveillance, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R. Wis., called for VRA restoration because the United States is “the paragon of democracy.” Sensenbrenner took note of how VRA restoration was vital to civil liberties, saying “I support the VRA, not because voter discrimination affects everyone, but because it affects some people. America is the paragon of democracy because we protect the civil liberties and equality of everyone. Encroachment on the rights of a few hurts us all.”

Watch video: http://www.cato.org/multimedia/events/nsa-surveillance-what-we-know-what-do-about-it-afternoon-keynotehttp://