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NAACP Calls for New Voting Rights Act

James Wright | 6/25/2014, 12:25 p.m.
Pennsylvania had required government-issued identification to vote in all of the state's elections. (Courtesy photo)

The NAACP told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 struck down last year by the Supreme Court need to be reactivated to ensure citizens will be allowed to vote freely.

The Rev. Francys Johnson, president of the NAACP Georgia State Conference, said there have been efforts to suppress and discourage minority voting since the high court's decision.

"We are witnessing the wholesale elimination and changing of polling locations; significant changes in the methods of electing school board, town and city council members; a rush to move to at-large districts; and limiting early voting that have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote," he said.

In Athens, Georgia, where the population is nearly 30 percent black, Johnson said that community leaders wanted to eliminate half of the city's 24 polling places and replace them with two early voting centers that would located in police stations.

"Community members raised concerns that the location of the new centers would intimidate some voters, including those of color," Johnson said.

Lorraine C. Miller, NAACP CEO and interim president, told the senators "the right to vote for all is under threat" and that the Supreme Court ruling has "opened the door to all sorts of mischief inside our nation's sacred voting box."

"We risk the disenfranchisement of whole segments of our society," Miller said.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 — which has been presented in the House of Representatives and supported by the NAACP — would restore much of the original Voting Rights Act and would allow modern tools such as the Internet and social media to notify citizens of changes in voting laws and jurisdictions.

"We applaud the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for holding today's hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014," said Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy and policy. "We are hopeful the Senate hearing will lift up the current challenges voters-particularly people of color, the elderly, youth and low-income citizens-face across the country, and demonstrate the continuing need for an effective Voting Rights Act voter discrimination prevention provision."

The NAACP has called on the Republican-dominated House to hold hearings on the new Voting Rights Act bill.