"The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government."
— U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren,
Reynolds v. Sims (1964)
Voting Rights & Election Law
The Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1965. It outlawed the worst of the Jim Crow laws, such as literacy tests and other devices that kept Black Americans out of the voting booth. Gradually, through court decisions and Congressional amendments, other efforts to limit voting rights, faced by people of color, fell by the wayside.
In 1993 the tide shifted ominously when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shaw v. Reno. The Court struck down as unconstitutional a Congressional reapportionment plan that resulted in Black majority voting districts in North Carolina. Since Shaw, the Court has continued to chip away at voting rights. Today, the hard won gains of African Americans and other minorities are in danger of being extinguished.
ACLU is working to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act. To read more go to ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
Initiative Reform in Oregon
The ACLU of Oregon has been active in election law. We have worked to preserve rights guaranteed in the Oregon Constitution through court challenges and by participating in initiative and ballot measure campaigns.
Oregon has an active initiative process that allows voters to change both state law and the state constitution. The ACLU of Oregon has led the way in Oregon courts in preserving the Oregon Constitution’s initiative process. For instance, in the ACLU case of Armatta v.Kitzhaber the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that amendments to the Oregon constitution be voted on separately, so that voters can pick and choose which changes they want, rather than being forced to accept or reject many changes in one measure.
The ACLU of Oregon works on all aspects of ballot measures that would impact civil liberties, including filing comments on initiative petitions, working on ballot measure campaigns, and engaging in pre and post-election challenges.