Why The Voting Rights Act Matters

During the signing ceremony of the Voting Rights Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson characterized the law as "one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom." Since that day, this landmark civil rights law has steadily and surely defeated and deterred countless discriminatory and varied barriers to the ballot.

Under constant review since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has continued to be found relevant and necessary to protect minority voting rights by the highest courts and lawmakers across the country. In 2006, Congress voted to re-authorize the VRA, extending its authority for the fourth time since its enactment. Before doing so, Congress held 21 hearings, heard from more than 90 witnesses, and compiled more than 15,000 pages of evidence. Support was overwhelming and the message clear; the VRA is still relevant and necessary to protect minority voting rights. Congress renewed it for another 25 years by a vote of 390 to 33 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. And in invoking its authority under both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to combat racial discrimination in voting, the D.C. Circuit Court just recently found that Congress had acted at "the apex of its power."

The History of The Voting Rights Act
A History of The Voting Rights Act: Check out the Timeline!

When he signed this extension into law, President George W. Bush reminded Americans why we fight so vigorously to preserve the right to vote: "Eighty-one year old Willie Bolden was the grandson of slaves, and in the spring of 1966, he cast his first ballot in Alabama's Democratic primary. He told a reporter, ‘It felt good to me. It made me think I was sort of somebody.'"

Voting matters. Its power lies not only in the practical, in giving people an opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing, but also through the sense of dignity that it gives to those who are able to exercise it. Withholding the right to vote was a reminder to those excluded that they were not whole; they were un-American; they were nobodies. Indeed, throughout our country's history, the right to vote was denied to white men without property, African-Americans, women, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, and adults under twenty-one-years of age.

But that's all history, some claim today, saying that we're no longer plagued by the racial injustice of the civil rights era. Yes, Bull Connor is dead and our nation has elected a black president. But unfortunately, Connor's legacy still lingers in modern day, less overt strategies to block African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities from the ballot.

Why we still need Section 5

Section 5 remains relevant in big ways and small. Throughout the jurisdictions to which Section 5 applies, voting remains divided along racial lines. Congress found that in 2000, only 8 percent of African Americans were elected from districts where white voters comprise the majority. At the same time, no Native Americans or Hispanics had been elected to office from a majority white district.

Knowing this, those in power not only attack the right to vote, but also diminish the value of each vote through all kinds of creative methods, including drawing boundaries of an election district to ensure that minority voters cannot constitute a majority, by "packing" minorities to insure they are a majority in only one or a limited number of districts, and by implementing majority vote and numbered post requirements which maximize the power of the white vote.

Leading up to the 2012 presidential election, politicians attempted to chip away at our fundamental right to vote – and overwhelmingly, people of color were the target. The Department of Justice recently rejected Texas' congressional and senate redistricting plans because the legislature acted deliberately to ignore the dramatic growth in the Hispanic population. After failing to receive preclearance from the DOJ, South Carolina went to court to receive approval for its law to require photo ID for voting. Through the course of the trial, the state agreed to modify the law to comply with Section 5 and insure that it would not have had a disproportionate impact on that state's African-American voters. And the preclearance process helped reshape Florida's early voting period and defeat its restrictions on registration drives.

No less significant was the recent example of a Texas county that attempted to move a polling place from a school to a private club—one which had been historically segregated. After the DOJ sought more information before approving the change, the county withdrew its request.

To beat back this relentless desire to restrict minority voting rights, we need a robust law, one that doesn't just allow piecemeal litigation as a remedy. And Section 5 provides this. Lest you think that all jurisdictions covered under this critical law are chafing under its purview, Mississippi, which has the largest portion of African-American voters of any state in the country, and North Carolina, which has the seventh largest, joined California and New York in voicing their steadfast support of the law. In their amicus brief to the Supreme Court, these states characterized the burdens Section 5 imposes as "minimal" and lauded the provision for helping their states move closer to their "goal of eliminating racial discrimination and inequities in voting."

And jurisdictions that believe Section 5 should no longer apply to them already have a remedy. They can "bail out" from the statute's coverage if they can demonstrate that they've remained free of discriminatory voting laws or policies within the preceding 10 years, have complied with the VRA, and have made efforts to ensure equal access to the ballot. Since 1984, the Attorney General has consented to every bail out application, including New Hampshire's, in December 2012.

Why we fight

The Voting Rights Act remains an indispensable tool in our fight to preserve the right to vote; this law brings us one step closer to our dream of achieving our ideal of true egalitarian citizenship. It must be preserved.

Check out A History of The Voting Rights Act timeline.

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The Voting Rights Act (VRA) must be upheld by the supreme court: Discrimination is alive today unfortunately; Liberty and justice for all is openly sabotaged and the Supreme Court is inviting trouble of great magnitudnal proportions if it dares to fail its ultimate mandate: to uphold everyone's constitutional rights. We not only need to keep the protections in the current Voting Rights Act, it should be expanded. The numerous despicable attempts to restrict voting made during the last election cycle are proof of that. Anyone who truly believes the VRA is obsolete needs to recognize, given last years voter suppression efforts, the Jim Crowe era is biding its time, lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to rear its head once again. The entire nation will speak against it because the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is not about political parties; the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is about individual rights protection. Bank on it! it is time to review; the Supreme Court's "entitlements" as, it is no longer acting as an unbiased institution and that, your magistrates , can be amended. get up and do your job or we will make it happen! count on it! Now Even if you are dumb enough to believe that all is OK with the world and there are no reasons to have the voting rights law on the books. Then why are the the parties at opposite end's on this ? Why are the Republicans in America trying to keep people from the poles ? Well I will tell you what I think. I think there may be a dozen or two, man and women in America that have the means to buy the power it wants to call all shots in this Country. The only way they can obtain this right now is get the people they went in office. To buy them so to say. But they know they can be stopped at the voting polls.They know the more that get out and vote there chances are reduced substantially. George Will knows this and should be ashamed. He say 47 years old. Is that old ? I don't think so. Look at the constitution, at that II Amendment a lot older right. SS, Medicare, still very new in the big picture. But look at who wants to change them. Not working men and women, no the big bosses. They do not like to mach payments that is what this is all about. They did not like it back in the 1930s and they do not like it now. So Americans do not be fooled and all of you older people that now have this little benefit fight like h--- to keep it just as it is. It just might be all there is between eating and striving !!

All the republicans crapping about The Voting Rights Act (VRA) on this board and the likes of you in the REPUBLICAN House should move aside in 2014 because the REPUBLICANS are the crux of the problem. President Obama won the elections of 2008 AND 2012 fair and square but the REPUBLICANS are not allowing him to govern through their rule of RECORD number of filibusters in the Senate and the HOUSE of REPUBLICANS has achieved nothing since it came to power in 2010. In 2014 its the REPUBLICAN's time to go and let OBAMA our democratically elected PRESIDENT rule the country and leave a legacy behind like the achievements of the 2008-2010 years when DEMOCRATS had the House Senate and the Presidency. We want the obstructionist REPUBLICANS out of the way in 2014. We want our House and Senate back in the DEMOCRATIC hands so we can govern and achieve something. All these doomsday fiscal deadlines that REPUBLICANS keep pushing on the country will haunt them in 2014!! Mark my words. March 4th 2013. Vote Democratic always!

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