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ACLU Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Voting Rights Act; Highlights More Work To Be Done

Posted: August 06, 2015|Category: Voting Rights

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On today’s 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the ACLU of Rhode Island issued the following statement to highlight that even in our state, people of color continue to face barriers to voting that undermine the spirit of that monumental Act.

“With the August 5, 1965 signing of the Voting Rights Act, the United States declared that racial discrimination in voting could no longer be tolerated. Yet, decades later, minority voters in Rhode Island – and across the country – face barriers to voting and representation that undermine the actions taken by so many to ensure equal voting access.

“Even though it is clear that minority, low-income, disabled, and elderly voters are less likely to have photo identification, Rhode Island passed a voter ID law four years ago. That action codified a disturbing state commitment to believing more in the myth of voter identification fraud than in the demonstrable disenfranchisement of voters. Even as Rhode Island requires photo identification at the polls, it has largely ignored documented problems with the provisional ballot process that had been promised as a fail-safe to avoid the disenfranchisement of qualified voters. Poll monitoring that we have done since voter ID took effect has made it clear that the implementation of that law has denied some people their legitimate right to the franchise on election day.

“At the same time, Rhode Island’s dubious use of ‘prison gerrymandering’ further diminishes the political power of communities of color. By counting all individuals housed at the ACI – whether there for a day, a month or a decade – as a resident of Cranston for redistricting purposes, this gerrymandering gives extra representation to the people of Cranston, and to people in the particular ward in Cranston where the ACI is located, thereby artificially deflating the representation of people outside that area.

“These two laws alone are a concrete indication of the on-going struggle to fulfill the  promise of the Voting Rights Act fifty years after its passage. As we celebrate the voting rights victories of our past, we must not forgot the barriers of the present or be unprepared for the battles of the future. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to protecting the fundamental right to vote and ensuring equal representation for all.” The ACLU is challenging the state’s prison gerrymandering in court and supporting legislative efforts to repeal the voter ID law.

The ACLU of Rhode Island, along with the NAACP Providence Branch, the R.I. Disability Law Center and the R.I. Coalition for the Homeless will discuss the Voting Rights Act and the current state of voting laws on Wednesday, August 12 at the Providence Public Library. “The Voting Rights Act at 50: The Promise and The Struggle,” begins at 6pm, and is free and open to the public.  More information is available at www.riaclu.org.

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