Bishops stress need to secure voting rights

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. bishops have called for legislative action to ensure the right of all eligible citizens to vote.

“The recent Supreme Court decision necessitates that Congress act swiftly to assure that the right to vote be protected and afforded to all eligible citizens,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, said July 3.

The two bishops head the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on Cultural Diversity, respectively, for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They urged the introduction of new legislation that “assures modern and effective protections for all voters so that they may exercise their right and moral obligation to participate in public life.”

On June 25, the Supreme Court struck down a part of the 1965 federal voting law that barred nine states and many counties and municipalities from changing their election laws without federal approval. The court majority ruled that the federal law, which mainly affects Southern states, does not reflect “current conditions” and cultural changes.


Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion noted the high rate of African-American voter registration and turnout and the rise of African-American political leaders in towns like Selma, Ala. He said the law selected states and localities that require federal preapproval on the basis of “40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed, saying in her dissent that the decision was a disservice to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and ignored new barriers to voting such as racial gerrymandering and requirements for at-large voting in areas with a black minority, the New York Times reports.

She said the legislation being struck down had helped to fulfill “the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment,” passed after the Civil War to let Congress legislate against racial discrimination in voting.

Bishop Blaire and Bishop Flores noted the U.S. bishops’ leadership role in securing the right to vote, including the bishops’ past support for the Voting Rights Act.

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