A group of local organizations gathered at the steps of the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse, in Charleston, Tuesday to implore West Virginians to call their representatives in Congress in support of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019.
The Voting Rights Act, which kept districts with a history of discrimination from changing their voting laws without federal preclearance, was originally signed into law in 1965. However, a 2013 Supreme Court case declared a key provision in the law unconstitutional.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, some states and localities have pushed forward changes to voting practices, such as redrawing district boundaries, which in some cases disadvantaged select voters. Some states created strict voter identification laws and changed polling locations with little notice.
Katonya Hart, with West Virginia NAACP, said it was time to take a stand.
“We are here to fight for our rights to be restored. They are slowly rolling away our ability to have our own pursuit of happiness,” Hart said. “We are here to put a line in the sand, if you will, to say we see what you’re doing and we’re taking it to the people.”
“We’ve come too far to turn back,” said Rick Martin, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP. “Again, we’re urging you all to contact your congressional representatives. Do all you can to insist on the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.”
Carey Jo Grace, with the WV Healthy Kids and Family Coalition, encouraged everyone to vote in the May 12, 2020, primary where several state Supreme Court Justices will be elected.
“These are the people who decide if our voting rights laws are protected or not,” Grace said. “It’s an incredibly important election too many people ignore.”