Friday, March 6, 2015

We Must Honor the Legacy of Selma Foot Soldiers by Repairing What They Fought For

In an important moment of bipartisanship, Congress unanimously passed a bill this month that honors the thousands of people who marched for voting rights 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama, with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress' highest civilian honor. This legislation was co-sponsored by 149 Republicans and 227 Democrats.

On March 7, 1965 at the foot of the Edmund Pettis Bridge, they suffered beatings and the fear of death to peacefully protest for a national voting rights law. Ultimately, they prevailed and that law -- the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- changed the face of America and combated ongoing discrimination to the present day. Unfortunately, in 2013, the Supreme Court crippled one of the most effective protections of that act in its Shelby County v. Holder decision by rendering ineffective the requirement that certain jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination get pre-approval for voting changes. The elections last November was the first time in 50 years that voters of color were not fully protected at the polls. The lack of these protections created a chaotic election landscape that confused both voters and election officials.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015, introduced by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), seeks to repair the damage done by the Supreme Court by protecting voters in states that engage in recent and repeated acts of racial discrimination, while providing stronger enforcement tools nationwide to ensure fair elections.


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