Fifty years ago today, August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The right to vote, to participate in the most basic, elemental way in democracy, is still under attack and still not safeguarded for our most vulnerable citizens. In a dubious 5-4 decision in June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Act, based on the specious reasoning that such provision had worked, had solved the problems it was intended to address, and thus was no longer necessary. Within hours — mere hours — of that Supreme Court ruling, the fallacy of the Court’s reasoning was fully and completely exposed when multiple GOP-dominated states adopted new voting restrictions which effectively disenfranchised large segments of their populations, especially black, poor and other minority citizens, undoing the very progress the Court reasoned had made the provision no longer necessary. Though weakened, the Act remains an important bulwark against increasingly aggressive efforts by the modern GOP to obstruct the right to vote. It is incumbent upon all Americans to demand that Congress pass new laws reinstating and dramatically expanding the voting rights protections the Supreme Court and state legislatures have so needlessly weakened.
Read statements by President Obama and Congressman John Lewis about the Voting Rights Act on the White House blog.