Eric Holder: 57 Years Later, Voting Rights Act Protections Remain Necessary

August 5, 2022

Washington, D.C. — Today, Eric Holder, the 82nd Attorney General of the United States and Chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, released the following statement ahead of the 57th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law on August 6, 1965: 

“The Voting Rights Act is landmark civil rights legislation – the crown jewel of the civil rights movement – that is critical to protecting the most basic and important of American rights—the right to vote. At the time of its enactment, the Voting Rights Act  provided groundbreaking progress and necessary, overdue change. It gave the nation the opportunity to move forward as a more just country  and moved us closer to the promise of equal treatment under the law. Now, this seminal law’s foundational values are under attack, threatening the very citizens it is meant to protect. 

“This anniversary should not just be a moment of reflection on the progress we have made since 1965, but it must also be a moment of recognition of the ugly fact that discrimination in voting still exists today, including in the form of gerrymandered maps, despicable racial appeals and dog whistles in campaigns, unprecedented voter suppression legislation in the states, and other efforts to weaken voting rights. Today, we must fight not only to protect the progress we have made, but also to build on that progress and keep moving forward. 

“The most recent redistricting cycle has demonstrated that the federal protections enshrined in the VRA remain necessary. Across the country, where Republicans controlled the map drawing, they gerrymandered. One of their primary tactics was to pack and crack communities of color, reducing their representation and diminishing their voting power—all despite the fact that our country has become increasingly diverse and is ideologically changing. Critical protections enshrined in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act should have protected those communities—and did, at first. Federal courts struck down egregiously racially gerrymandered maps in states like Alabama and Louisiana, where the courts found that the maps passed by those states’ legislatures obstructed Black voters’ equal participation in the political process. Rather than accepting that result and drawing maps that lawfully provide communities of color with equal opportunities, however, Republicans have turned to the Supreme Court, asking it to change the rules and attacking Section 2 directly. The Court now faces a crucial, yet simple, decision to either protect the right to vote, or to weaken it.

“Many sacrificed much so that others might enjoy the full breadth of rights and opportunities that should accrue to all American citizens. The question before us now is whether we will move forward as a country and finally create a nation that lives up to its founding ideals. The power to bring about this positive change rests in all our hands. It’s time to act.”

This October, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument in Merrill v. Milligan, a challenge to Alabama’s congressional map, which included just one district that will allow Black voters an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice while cracking the rest of the state’s significant Black community across three other districts. The NDRC’s 501(c)(3) affiliate, the National Redistricting Foundation (NRF), is supporting the Merrill plaintiffs in this consequential lawsuit. A federal district court in Alabama, which includes two judges appointed by President Trump,  previously blocked the state from using the new congressional map after determining that the map dilutes the voting power of the state’s Black communities in violation of Section 2 of the VRA. The Supreme Court granted a stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction, allowing the 2022 election to proceed under the congressional map passed by the Alabama Legislature, and will weigh in on the merits of the case in its coming Term.