June 25, 2013 –

The High Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder a step back in the fight for free, fair and accessible elections in the Sunshine State

Miami, Fl  – Florida New Majority Executive Director Gihan Perera released the following statement Tuesday after the Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder:

“That the Supreme Court, by the slimmest of margins, decided to strike down one of the biggest weapons in the fight against institutional racism in this country, is not surprising. However, the fact that Florida’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner is elated at this decision should give us all reason to pause.

Detzner’s statement Tuesday that “It will be better without the Department of Justice looking over our shoulder all the time.” Yet if it wasn’t for that same Department of Justice, Florida’s disastrous HB 1355 would have been allowed to limit the voting rights of ALL residents in Collier, Hardee, Hillsborough, Hendry and Monroe counties. There would have been no recourse for these voters against the rules pass in 2011 that looked to reduce early voting hours and make registration more difficult. The rules that Florida Senate Ethics and Elections co-chair Jack Latvala would later this year call a “mistake.”

The Voting Rights Act has helped stop a history of discrimination borne of attempts to limit the full political voice of underrepresented communities locally and nationally. The Court’s decision eliminates a central review process voters could depend on to safeguard their the right to vote when  their local or state officials failed to ensure this basic freedom. The fact that since 2011, over 30 states have tried to pass some sort of Voter ID law should be proof enough that battle for fair and equal representation is as fierce and as vital to our core values as it was after the end of Reconstruction era. So should the nearly two dozen separate hearings that Congress held in 2006 that lead to the Act’s most recent passage by overwhelming numbers.

Ultimately, democracy is not determined by five men in black robes sitting high in Washington, D.C. It is determined and protected by a movement of free people. So we look forward to using this step backward as a moment to hold our leaders accountable. To do more than just merely “update” the formula that we all use to ensure that free, fair and accessible elections are more reality than rhetoric.

In fact, let us use this moment to ground the right to vote in our state and national constitution so that political winds and ultra-partisan maneuvering cannot undermine the ability of all citizens to cast a ballot. So that there is no doubt to the resolve that we all have in dismantling the obstacles that still exist to voting in all of the fifty states. So that sacrifice of all of our forefathers and foremothers is honored and the promise of America is fully realized.