3:13 pm - Thursday December 17, 1209

Supreme Court Considers Future of Voting Rights Act

Kathleen Ryan

DENVER – The U.S. Supreme Court today begins considering the future of a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The law was designed to help make sure that everyone would have an equal right to vote – banning practices such as poll taxes or other voter intimidation efforts. But now, nearly 50 years later, some say the act isn’t needed.

Shelby County, Ala., is challenging a requirement that it get federal approval before making any changes in the ways elections are held. The county says voter discrimination is a thing of the past in all 16 states that are covered by this provision.

Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters, disagreed, saying the law ensures fair and accessible elections.

“I have seen over the years what a tremendous impact this has had,” she said, “because it keeps this at the forefront of everybody’s consciousness.”

Colorado isn’t one of the 16 states covered by that provision of the Voting Rights Act. However, groups such as the NAACP argue that Colorado has a history of voter suppression and believe the act should be expanded. This year, a bill in the Legislature requiring the Secretary of State to cancel registrations of suspected non-citizen voters died in committee.

MacNamara said last year’s election demonstrates that attempts at voter suppression haven’t gone away.

“While we have made enormous progress – and that’s obvious because of the occupants of the White House – nevertheless, we’re not there yet,” she said, “and there is still an awful lot of work to be done.”

Last year, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler sought to remove noncitizens from the voting rolls, which some said intimidated legally registered citizens. But Gessler’s office has said it acted judiciously and didn’t remove any voters from the rolls.

The text of the Voting Rights Act is online at justice.gov.

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