Tri-Caucus Marks 47th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
This week marks the 47th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed discriminatory voting practices. The Chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) released the following statements:
Congressman Charles Gonzalez (TX-20), CHC Chair: “The Voting Rights Act restored justice, equality, and fairness to our country’s most sacred right: the right to vote. At a time when we have witnessed unprecedented attacks on the right to vote, now more than ever is a time to not only celebrate the anniversary of this historic legislation, but we must also fight to maintain its legacy and integrity.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair: “This November, we must ensure that every eligible American voter has an opportunity to have their voice heard. We learned this lesson the hard way; past generations have fought, bled and died for the right to participate in our democracy today. As we recognize the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, it is troubling to see politicians around the country trying to erode these protections and bring us back to the days when the right to vote was limited to a privileged few. In the spirit of the Voting Rights Act, we must overcome these attempts at voter suppression and protect our American democracy.”
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), CBC Chair: “At a time where the right for millions of Americans to vote is once again being threatened, it is critical for us to remember the significance of this day and the events that led to the passage of this landmark legislation. Forty-seven years ago, this country took a stand to protect people of color from nefarious disenfranchisement tactics. Today, while we celebrate passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, nearly 5 million people’s right to cast their ballot is once again under attack. Six years ago, no voter identification law existed. Today, at least 33 states have introduced contemporary versions of voter ID requirements and at least 13 states have introduced bills to end Election Day and same-day voter registration that allows millions of voters, particularly minorities, the elderly and those from low income households to participate in the democratic process. We cannot let this stand. As we honor the work done by those who fought to preserve this right, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus reaffirm their commitment to protecting the voting rights of all Americans and to make sure that no eligible voter is turned away from the ballot box this year or ever again.”
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The legislation prohibited denying individuals the right to vote based on their race or prerequisite qualifications like literacy tests. Johnson’s actions enfranchised millions of minority voters whose ability to vote had been thwarted until that point by Jim Crow Laws.
The day the Voting Rights Act was signed, President Johnson declared, “This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. Its only purpose is to right that wrong. Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.”
The Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized five times since then, most recently in 2006. Over the past year, several laws have been introduced and passed in state legislatures across the country that would arguably suppress the voting rights of minority, elderly, youth, and disabled voters.