LOS ANGELES, CA – On Women’s Equality Day, the nation commemorates the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote. However, when the amendment was ratified 100 years ago, the same barriers – Jim Crow laws, English-only ballots, poll taxes, voter ID laws — that kept men of color from voting also applied to Latinas and Black women. It wasn’t until 1965 with the signing of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits voting discrimination based on race, color and national origin that Latinas and Black women began to experience real access to the ballot. In 1975, the VRA was extended to include protections for language-minorities, further protecting the right to vote for Latinas.

Please attribute the following statement to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):

“One hundred years ago, the ratification of the 19th Amendment initiated the largest formal expansion of the franchise in our nation’s history.  This belated recognition that our democracy cannot exclude over half the adult population based on sex stereotype is a clear maturation of our nation worthy of ongoing commemoration.  As an organization devoted to voting rights and led by women lawyers for more than half of its existence, MALDEF joins in celebrating the singular achievement of one century ago.

“While we commemorate, we must also commit to rooting out the many barriers that continue to deny to Latinas and other women voters of color the right guaranteed by the 19th Amendment.  False allegations of voter fraud, unconscionable delays in naturalization processing, attempts at intimidation through uniformed presence at polling places, denial of remote voting to all but the most privileged, and voter purges that specifically target naturalized-citizen voters.  These are just some of the mechanisms put in place to deny the franchise to so many women with every right to exercise it.

“It is time to make real the promise of the 19th Amendment, and MALDEF re-commits to working to ensure that today’s commemoration is a forward-looking and practical reaffirmation of the right of every eligible woman to cast an effective vote.”