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Local politicians rally for voters rights

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Published on: Thursday, September 26, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – On the steps of the Montgomery County Council Office Building, local politicians from all levels of government joined together to support a resolution to improve and protect citizens’ right to vote in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this summer.

In a 5-4 decision in June, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before they start making changes to voting procedures, such as moving a polling place or redrawing electoral districts.

Council President Nancy Navarro introduced a resolution at Monday’s press conference which:

•    Calls on Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which grants an individual right to vote to every American citizen of voting age.

•    Calls for Congress to give Washington, D.C., representation in the House of Representatives and Senate.

•    Establishes a 15-person Right to Vote task force to review the county’s voting laws and recommend changes to make them stronger.

•    Asks Congress to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which the Supreme Court invalidated in June.

“Free and far elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Navarro said. “As elected officials it is our job to encourage citizen participation; however in some states we have seen a disturbing trend of more barriers to voting.”

Maryland is taking a leadership role among the states by expanding early voting, Navarro said, but the precedent set by states such as Texas, which passed a voter ID law after the Supreme Court made its decision, presented a need for her resolution.

“Texas’ voter ID law disproportionately impacts students, the elderly and people of color,” she said.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), one of the many politicians in attendance, said he agrees that Maryland is doing a good job of making voting easier, but he is happy the county council is taking a stance on guaranteeing the right to vote.

“There are problems out there,” Cardin said. “There are those that think it is right to try and oppress the rights of people in this country, particularly on minorities…These laws are trying to suppress people from voting and that should have no place in America.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he thought the Supreme Court’s decision was “scandalous” and an act of “judicial arrogance.”

“Too much blood and too many tears have been shed to turn back the clock,” Van Hollen said.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray also attended the event, thanking county leaders for their support for getting congressional representation for the nation’s capital.“

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