In a sharply worded statement, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. (BWA) denounced the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which establishes the formula that determines which states need pre-clearance from the federal government before changing voting procedures.
“The Black Women’s Agenda is shocked and appalled by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to overturn Shelby County v. Holder,” said BWA President Gwainevere Hess. “This decision will have a devastating impact on African Americans and other American minorities throughout the country.” The Supreme Court left standing Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act, allowing the federal government to require states with a history of discrimination to obtain approval prior to making any changes to voting laws in their jurisdictions. “However,” Hess insisted, “by placing the onus on Congress to update the formula determining which states need pre-clearance, the Court appears to be indifferent to the numerous voter intimidation and suppression cases that marred the 2012 election cycle.”
Citing information released by the Constitutional Accountability Center, a public interest law firm, Hess pointed out that, in the run-up to the 2012 election, state and local officials attempted to put in place restrictive voter ID laws, shorten early voting hours and make it more difficult to register to vote. These efforts included Texas’s stringent voter ID law, which would have disenfranchised low-income Texas citizens, who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic, as well as the state’s discriminatory redistricting plan, and Florida’s attempts to slash the period for early voting, which is disproportionally used by African-American voters.
According to this same source, Before Congress reauthorized the act in 2006, it amassed a record of over 15,000 pages demonstrating that state-sponsored racial discrimination in voting continues to be concentrated in the jurisdictions long covered by the Voting Rights Act.
“The Chief Justice, from his worldview, may believe that much has changed since 1965 – however, we know the struggle has not ended and, from the lens of minorities, the light has now become more blurred and dim from this decision,” Hess said, adding that “The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. will join civil rights and community organizations in mobilizing communities to ensure that voting rights are not rolled back to pre-Voting Rights Act 1965, and are expanded to all states so that all citizens are guaranteed the right to vote.”
Founded in 1977 in Washington, DC, The Black Women’s Agenda is a national non-profit organization that generates awareness and support for issues affecting Black women worldwide. Through the development of a social priorities agenda, it facilitates discussions that promote effective policies and meaningful change.