Rep. John Lewis on the Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act
“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.
“Over 50 years later, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) had been hailed by historians as one of the most impactful and effective actions of Congress in the last half century. It ushered in millions of African Americans, Asian, Latino and Native Americans and many language minorities who had been shut off from the democratic process, until it was gutted by a decision of the Supreme Court in 2013.
“We must confront the fact that there are forces in our society that want to reverse that democratic legacy. They do not want to be subject to the will of the people, but prefer a society where the wealthy have a greater say in the future of America than their numbers would dictate. They want to eliminate checks and balances and pave a route to a freewheeling environment for corporations to make money, even at the expense of the least and most vulnerable among us. All we have to do is say no to this tyranny and begin to stand up and speak out for the heritage of equality and justice most Americans believe in.
“In the days when leaders fail us, when the work of many in government is division and separation, and when corporations are only interested in the cost of widgets above the value of human life, the onus falls on each and every one of us to do what is right, what is fair and what is just. Members of Congress who truly believe in democracy must stay in the struggle to demand that the Senate take up House initiatives to repair the VRA.
“Citizens must exercise their right to vote, stay vigilant and informed about the changes in law and voting patterns to avoid the snares being laid to block access to the ballot box. Let your representatives and senators hear that you expect them to restore voter protections by passing a meaningful fix to the VRA. We have come a great distance, and each of us must confirm in ourselves that we are not going back. We want to move forward to create a more fair and open society that gives an equal voice to every citizen.”