ROANOKE, Va. – NAACP National President and CEO Cornell William Brooks and NAACP members are holding a nonviolent sit-in at Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s district office in Roanoke calling for a hearing on the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
Brooks, an attorney and minister who has served as president of the NAACP since 2014, is currently refusing to leave the office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte for refusing to hold hearings on the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for three years. He has told police that he will not leave unless arrested or he receives a response from the congressman.
The sit-in began at 11 a.m. and follows a morning of protest by the local chapter of the NAACP, where a group of youth and adult activists called for congressional action to restore federal protection against state laws barring ballot access in states with the worst histories of voter suppression and discrimination. Goodlatte chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which has refused to hold hearings on legislation to combat egregious voter discrimination in recent years.
“In these past three years, we’ve seen a Machiavellian frenzy of voter suppression from one end of this country to the other, where states have worked systemically to make it harder for young people, college students, minorities to vote for the candidate and party of their choice on Nov. 8,” Brooks said. “With the fate of our national moral character at stake, we must hold our elected leaders responsible to act to uphold the constitutional rights guaranteed for all citizens to vote and participate in this Democracy.”
The protest and rally are held to honor the 51st anniversary since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, effectively banning state laws that denied the vote to black and minority voters for decades in Virginia and other southern states. Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the law that prohibited states from changing local election laws without federal review in the case of Shelby v. Holder.
Within days of the 2013 ruling, several states enacted exclusive voting laws designed to prevent young, old and minority residents from voting by requiring hard-to-obtain ID cards to register and cast a ballot on election days, as well as cutting back on successful registration programs and early voting hours that drove minority turnout to record-setting levels in 2008 and 2012.
Federal courts last month struck down voting laws in Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin as attempts to deliberately prevent entire populations from having easy access to the ballot.
“Congressman Goodlatte said he would act if there was evidence of voter suppression. The Court of Appeals has ruled that there is widespread evidence of exactly that,” Brooks told police. “It’s past time for Congressman Goodlatte to protect the same law he voted to re-authorize just 10 years ago.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.