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Georgia Community Leaders Demand Congress Fix the Voting Rights Act Now

For Immediate Release
Friday, June 28, 2013

Contact
Courtney Hanson, Georgia WAND Public Outreach Director
courtney@georgiawand.org
404-524-5999

ATLANTA, GA, JUNE 28, 2013 -- Following the Supreme Court Decision in Shelby vs. Holder, Georgians from across the state are calling on Congress to act with deliberate speed to fix the Voting Rights Act.  Every day Congress waits to take action is another day Georgians must fight against institutional suppression at the ballot box.

A coalition of community and civil rights groups – 9to5Atlanta; Asian American Legal Advocacy Center for Georgia (AALAC); Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO); Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Georgia Conservation Voters; Georgia Equality; Georgia Stand UP!; Georgia State Conference NAACP; Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions; League of Women Voters of Georgia; Planned Parenthood Southeast; and Partnership for Southern Equity – stand together to demand that Congress take seriously the voting rights of Americans and make it their top priority to pass a fair new formula for the Voting Rights Act.

“I find it unconscionable that, while recognizing that the Voting Rights Act has been immensely effective, the Court would gut Section 5 at a time when our voting population is becoming increasingly diverse,” said Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO, “This decision is a major setback for voting rights and will have a real and detrimental impact on voters. The Voting Rights Act is a vital tool to protect voters from losing their right to vote simply because of their race.”

“This past week is certainly bittersweet for those of us who care about full equality under the law. While we celebrated Wednesday's decision on marriage equality, those celebrations were tempered by the reality that the same court gutted the very law that has allowed our country's political representation to grow more diverse and tolerant of differences.  The struggle for greater equality for the gay and transgender community cannot be separated from the struggle for greater racial equality.  The very communities whose right to vote is jeopardized by this decision are the communities that are most accepting and tolerant of sexual and gender diversity.  Any effort that limits the voting rights of people of color poses a threat to the expansion of rights for the LGBT community,” said Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality.

"SCOTUS's decision to throw out the formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is antithetical to democracy," Becky Rafter, Executive Director of Georgia Women's Action for New Directions, said. "Congress must strengthen VRA and expand it to include even more states as new voting obstructions surfaced in 2012, from GA all the way to PA. If fundamental civil rights laws can be dismantled so easily, then none of our rights can truly be safeguarded."

These groups agree that elected officials in Georgia have gotten creative at suppressing the vote in our state.  Recent actions, including district lines drawn to stack local delegations, consolidation of voting precincts, and rolling back the number of early voting days, demonstrate the need for Congress to update the coverage formula to determine what jurisdictions will be covered by Section 5 and ensure that voters in jurisdictions with current and persistent records of discrimination continue to be protected.

“We believe that the Shelby decision will allow Georgia elected officials to pass voter suppression laws while no one is watching,” said Kelli Persons with the League of Women Voters of Georgia.   “It will be open season on minorities, new citizens and all people who want to exercise their right to vote as Americans.”

During the 2006 Congressional reauthorization of the VRA, thousands of pages of testimony presented to Congress documented the continuing problems in covered jurisdictions, including Georgia.

“This decision requires that Congress act forcefully and expeditiously to protect voters of color and address the persistent threat of racial discrimination. Congress proved in 2006 as it did several times previously that preventing racial voting discrimination is a bipartisan goal. We are committed to working to ensure every necessary protection for the right to vote,” said Helen Butler, Executive Director, Coalition for the People’s Agenda.

"While I'm sufficiently flabbergasted by at this decision -- who can make a convincing case that racial discrimination no longer exists in America? The future focus is clear.  We need a new Voting Rights Act that provides much broader and equitable protections to the process and to access to the polls.   We call for unity because the new battle is on,” said Dwayne Patterson with Partnership for Southern Equity.

“Our immediate “Call to Action” as voters is to contact our elected officials in Washington and tell them to ‘Get their Job Done!’ by enacting a formula that will reinstate the full strength of the Voting Rights Act to protect voters in Georgia and our nation”, said Elizabeth Poythress, President of the League of Women Voters of Georgia.

These groups are committed to keeping up the fight and ensuring Congress does what is necessary to protect every voter in this country from discrimination.

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