As we approach the 48th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, this historic civil rights legislation remains an essential protection against the discrimination that still threatens Americans' right to vote. Congress needs to move swiftly to restore the effectiveness of the VRA ("Voting rights ruling faces test," July 26). Now is the time to contact your member of Congress and tell him or her to repair the VRA before any more damage is done.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision which gutted key components of the law. The decision in the case of Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder erased fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting that have been effective for more than 40 years and opened the floodgates for a wave of attacks on voters.
We are strongly encouraged by the recent announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that his office will use other portions of the VRA to support a suit against Texas and other states that pass discriminatory voting laws, and we agree with Mr. Holder that "legislation … must fill the void left by the Supreme Court's decision." Only strong action from Congress can fix the court's mistake.
After the Supreme Court decision, several states rushed to implement racially discriminatory anti-voter laws, including several states where the League of Women Voters had previously succeeded in blocking voter restrictions in the courts and state legislatures. Sadly, this is only the beginning. Without a strong VRA, our ability to fight off anti-voter legislation and keep our elections free, fair and accessible is significantly weakened.
Maryland has not been a state requiring clearance for voting law changes under the portion of the VRA struck by the Supreme Court, but discrimination in any state weakens our democracy.
Susan Cochran, Annapolis
The writer is president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun