Political letters : Voting Rights


Dear Senator —, Senator —, and Representative —:

Please carefully consider the Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 1419; H.R. 2978), introduced by Senator Leahy and Representative Sewell. If you cannot support this act or an amended version thereof, I ask that you bring your own version to the floor. I will carefully review your actions on this matter prior to subsequent elections.

As you know, in the court case Shelby County v Holder (2013), the Supreme Court ruled Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) and its subsequent amendments to be unconstitutional, because its coverage formula is based on now-antiquated data from the 1960s and 1970s. Without Section 4(b), the safeguards contained in Section 5 of the VRA against discriminatory voting practices are inapplicable.

I am sympathetic to the view of the majority opinion of the Shelby case that “The [Fifteenth] Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future.” However, I am also acutely aware that past actions are often good predictors of future actions, and that clearly stated consequences for misdeeds can dissuade people from attempting the misdeeds in the first place.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Safeguarding the right of citizens to fully participate in government is vital to the health and welfare of our democracy and of our country. This is as true today as it was in 1965 and 1870.

It is your job to see that the protections in the Fifteenth Amendment are enforced by appropriate legislation. Please do your job.



  1. H.R.2978 : Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2017 (Congress). Introduced 2017-06-21; latest action 2017-07-17 (!).
  2. Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder” (Wikipedia).
  3. U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 08-322 : Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Eric H. Holder, Jr. (2009) (Supreme Court).
  4. Shelby County v. Holder” (Wikipedia).
  5. U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 12-96 : Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric H. Holder, Jr. (2013) (Supreme Court).
  6. Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution” (Wikipedia).
  7. Voting Rights Act of 1965” (Wikipedia).
  8. How to contact U.S. senators” (U.S. Senate).
  9. Find your representative” (U.S. House of Representatives)