It’s Women’s History Month, and one way female social activists are honoring the month is through the fight for restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
Get to know the League of Women Voters!
Founded in 1920 after women in the United States achieved suffrage, the League has since concerned itself with the preservation of the right to vote for all underprivileged social groups in this nation.
With the presidential election coming up, the League’s most urgent fight has been brought to greater attention: restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
In Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act which granted many protections against discrimination in the voter registration and polling processes. Section 4(b) is a coverage formula which determines if a local government has practiced discrimination in their voting processes.
Basically, being identified as an area with discriminatory voting practices puts Section 5 of the VRA into effect. Any state or local government in violation of Section 4(b) has to wait on a pass from Congress, called preclearance, to continue running their own voting affairs.
According to this graphic on The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights website, 16 states are covered by the aforementioned Section 5 of the VRA. States with large impacts in election years such as Texas and Florida, as well as states with intense histories of voter discrimination such as Mississippi and Alabama, are affected by such changes to the VRA.
The setback of Section 4(b) being removed from the VRA prompted congressmen to work toward strengthening it again. In January 2014, the Voting Rights Act Bill was introduced and then re-introduced to Congress a year later. Then in June of 2015, the Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced with the aim to restore former VRA provisions that were taken out as a result of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.
Protections that were granted by Section 5 of the VRA are important to regain. Just look at what happened in Florida right after the Shelby County case in 2013…
Starting with a list of 180,000 voters, Florida’s state government attempted to purge people from the list of registered voters under suspicion of being non-citizens. In the final list of 2,700 people, 58 percent of them were Latino.
Florida’s Latino population is 13 percent.
Of the 2,700 on the final list, fewer than 40 of them were actually non-citizens. Details on that voter purge and similar incidences post-Shelby County v. Holder can be found here at the Brennan Center for Justice site.
That being said, the fight for restoration of the Voting Rights Act is crucial. And despite issues of racial and class privilege within the feminist movement, those invested in Women’s History Month are standing firm behind this fight.
The League of Women Voters is exemplifying the notion that the freedom of other people is tied to their own. Women’s suffrage in 1920 was a great victory, but this organization has continued to use the privilege granted by that to bring fair treatment to other marginalized groups.
Having read this, celebrate this Women’s History Month knowing that fighting for gender equality is intimately tied to other fights for groups on the margins.
I leave you with a quote from Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Australian visual artist and advocate for various Aboriginal and women’s issues:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”