Voting Rights Act: Our Votes Matter

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Medgar Evers and many other paid the ultimate price to register Black voters--murder

[Op-Ed]

Today as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we must draw upon the example and the strength of those that sacrificed blood, sweat, tears, and in some cases their lives for the right to vote, as we work to restore a badly broken law that denies the most basic of civil rights to so many of our people. 

Once the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law, communities of color registered to vote and turned out in historic numbers at the polls. African Americans were elected to offices across the country.

Since then, and most recently with the Shelby County v. Holder decision, the VRA has come under attack by those who wish to suppress our vote and to suppress our power. Opponents argue that 50 years later, the protections granted by Section 5 of the VRA are no longer needed.

But we must fight as hard today as those before us fought 50 years ago to guarantee unfettered access to the ballot box. The stakes are too high to be complacent. We are encouraged by the Federal Appeals Court’s ruling that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against Blacks and Hispanics  and was a violation  of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and we are challenging in the courts and awaiting a decision on a North Carolina law that requires a photo ID for all residents to vote, eliminates early voting days, ends same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting, and stops the preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds in the state.

We face the 2016 election without the protection of major provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

At this very moment, the NAACP and a coalition of social justice warriors of every age, hue and faith are in the midst an 860 mile march called America’s Journey for Justice.

We are carrying the baton for justice as we march boldly and hold rallies through Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia until we reach Washington, D.C. Our message is clear: Our votes matter.

We were pleased to hear President Obama publicly and vociferously endorse our efforts. He understands that we must mobilize the masses and put boots on the ground to put laws that protect voting rights once and for all on the books.

 

From Cornell William Brooks

NAACP President and CEO

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