The 15th Amendment to the Constitution states that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States , or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2., of this amendment authorizes Congress to enforce the above stated article.
In 1965, Congress passed the long overdue legislation, The Voting Rights Act to enforce the 15th Amendment. It was a historic bill because it made it possible for African Americans to vote.
Voting is such a key part of being a citizen and one can not stress enough the importance of voting. Yesterday the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the bill, Part of the reasoning for their decision was that things are better in the United States now. They heaped praise on how successful and well needed the bill was when it was passed. The majority of the justices decided a mathematical formula in Section 4, of the bill was unconstitutional and basically threw the onus of the decision back on Congress and said that if Congress passed a bill that had a more current formula based on today’s numbers the legislation would then pass muster.
I believe that there were 12 states that had a history of voter discrimination and there is no guarantee that they would continue with their current good behavior if there was no law that would mandate no voter denial or abridgement.
I believe the decision was a horrible decision based upon the erroneous reasoning that because the bill was successful, and times have indeed changed it was no longer needed. It is naïve to believe that voter discrimination based upon race or color has disappeared.
Who are we kidding? We see attempts at voter suppression through voter I.D. laws being passed in several states as well as clever gerrymandering designed to change the results of prior elections by putting people of a certain race all in a few congressional districts.
Some of you are too young to remember the Jim Crow laws, that kept people from voting, and memories have faded of those who were alive when people died so that others could vote. Let us not forget the sacrifices that many made so that the simple act of registering to vote and voting was there for all Americans regardless of race or color.
I remember when George Wallace stood in front of the University of Alabama claiming segregation now and segregation forever.
Yes, things have changed for the better, but it took a federal law to give a legal backbone to that change. There are those among who would bring back those days when people of color were denied basic rights.
Let us hope that Congress will have the courage to re-authorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act with a more current mathematical formula so that our laws protect us from ourselves. Bigotry is not dead and laws are needed to protect our citizens’ rights so that they may be able to vote without fear and to be able to vote their conscience. May this Congress have the courage to be our conscience to protect our most basic right as a citizen and that is our right to vote.