HRC Marks Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Renews Calls for Congress to Pass H.R. 4

by HRC Staff

Post submitted by Viet Tran (he/him/they/them), former HRC Press Secretary

The right to vote is a central principle and a bedrock of our democracy.

Today, HRC marks the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and renews its call for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) -- critically important civil rights legislation that would ensure fair access to the ballot for all Americans is protected. The measure was introduced by Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as S. 561.

“The right to vote is a central principle and a bedrock of our democracy,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “Yet across the country, there are concerted efforts to prevent and discourage Americans from voting, particularly targeted at disenfranchising people of color and others who are most marginalized. The Voting Rights Advancement Act is a crucial step toward ensuring the voting rights of all Americans are restored and fully protected. Full equality will not be achieved until we halt the systematic efforts to restrict access to the ballot box, disenfranchise voters and undermine our democracy.”

In June 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of partisan redistricting in two cases out of Maryland (Lamone v. Benisek) and North Carolina (Rucho v. Common Cause).

  • Lamone v. Benisek: Maryland voters argued that Democratic state lawmakers enacted a congressional redistricting plan that intentionally diluted the impact of Republican votes in the state’s 6th Congressional District.
  • Rucho v. Common Cause: The North Carolina Democratic Party argued that Republican state lawmakers intentionally created a redistricting plan that disadvantaged Democratic candidates.

On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to civil rights in Shelby County v. Holder by striking down a key provision in the Voting Right Act that protected voters and their right to vote. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, states and localities have brazenly pushed forward discriminatory changes to voting practices, including changing district boundaries to disadvantage select voters, instituting more onerous voter identification laws and changing polling locations with little notice. 

Within the LGBTQ community, people of color, LGBTQ youth, and transgender individuals are often the most impacted by weakened voting rights laws. A poll found that African-American and Latino voters were three times as likely as white voters to report trouble finding their polling place. With one-third of transgender people reporting having no government identification that reflects their gender identity, voter ID laws often forcibly “out” transgender voters to poll workers, putting them at risk for discrimination and harassment.