Voting rights are under attack in America. Quietly, gradually, state-by-state, the right to vote – a right that many people died to secure – is being taken away. The Brennan Center released a report that shows that voting law changes across the nation will make it significantly harder for more than 5 million voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote. This should not be happening.
Today, we should be making it easy, simple, and convenient to vote. Instead, legislatures around the nation are creating barriers and making it more difficult for citizens to vote. There is not just one law, but many types of laws that are disenfranchising millions of voters: voter photo identification laws, proof of citizenship laws, barriers to registration, elimination of early voting and absentee voting, and laws making it harder to restore voting rights for people who have paid their debt to society. These laws are a barrier to an inclusive democracy. We are stepping backward toward another dark time in our history.
We cannot separate the dangerous trend across this nation from our history and the struggle for the right to vote. Before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, not so very long ago, it was almost impossible for some citizens to register and vote. Many were harassed, jailed, beaten, and some were even killed for trying to participate in the democratic process.
The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy. Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.
The history of the right to vote in America is a history of conflict, of struggling for the right to vote. Many people died trying to protect that right. I was beaten, and jailed because I stood up for it. For millions like me, the struggle for the right to vote is not mere history; it is experience. We should not take a step backward with new poll taxes and voter ID laws and barriers to voting. We must ensure every vote and every voter counts.
The vote is the most powerful, non-violent tool we have in a democratic society. We must not allow the power of the vote to be neutralized. We must never go back.
More on Voting Rights
WASHINGTON – Today, on the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision, Rep. John Lewis sent the United States Department of Justice the below letter regarding enforcement of the Voting Rights Act:
Dear Mr. Attorney General and Mr. Assistant Attorney General,
I write to express my profound concern and disappointment that the United States Department of Justice is abandoning its mission and mandate to protect the voting rights of minorities across our nation.
“It was today 54 years ago that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Just five months after Bloody Sunday, the conflict on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Johnson introduced legislation that responded to the demand that all Americans participate equally in the democratic process.
Today during a news conference calling attention to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision that “gutted” the Voting Rights Act, Rep. John Lewis made the following statement:
“I have said this before, and I will say it again. The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.
WASHINGTON - Rep. John Lewis (GA) is one of the co-authors of the Voter Empowerment Act, included nearly in its entirety in H.R. 1, the For the People Act adopted by the House of Representatives by a vote of 234-193.
WASHINGTON, DC – Lead sponsors Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6), and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act (H.R. 1275) in the House of Representatives yesterday. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will introduce a companion version in the Senate.
I join my colleagues in adamantly opposing the nomination of Thomas Farr to the U.S. District Court. The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful tool of non-violent reform available to every citizen in our democracy.
“Today, on the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by President Lyndon Johnson, we celebrate a milestone in American history. With the stroke of a pen, millions of Americans were ushered into the democratic process. In 1964 in Holmes County, Mississippi, there were only twelve black registered voters. By 1965, there were 28,500, and by 1984 there were 406,000.
I want to thank my friend, the Gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose this rule and to support the previous question.
In a democracy, the right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. Many people marched and protested for the right to vote. Some gave a little blood, and others lost their lives.
“I am deeply disturbed by the outcome of the Helsinki summit. The leader of this nation takes an oath before God to defend this country from all enemies both foreign and domestic, but this president is not defending the American way of life. He seems afraid to hold Russia accountable for its infringement on the election of 2016.
WASHINGTON – Rep. John Lewis will use these prepared remarks today at the SPEAKOUT rally on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol at 10:30 AM. He joins other members of the Democratic leadership, other colleagues, and activists in an effort to persuade this Congress to repair the Voting Rights Act. Hailed as the most effective voting access tool this nation has ever employed, the heart of the act—the formula used to apply its power to state electoral systems—was gutted by an ill-conceived U.S. Supreme Court decision. Congress has the ability to repair what was damaged.