Sacramento, CA – On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act into law outlawing discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.
The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."
Inspired by Civil Rights protests and civil unrest across the land, the United States Congress passed the law to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a widespread practice used by Southern states to prevent African-Americans from being able to register to vote.
The Act provided for extensive federal oversight of elections administration over states, primarily in the South with a history of discriminatory voting practices. It has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.
“Today, we commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a historic milestone in the Civil Rights Movement. But once again, we are forced to confront those regressive elements in our society to retain our Constitutional right to vote, said Senator Price. “I am dismayed that 47 years later, we have to fight Voter ID laws that could prevent millions of Americans from voting this year.”
Voter ID laws, which will require citizens to present photo identification at the polls, have been introduced or passed in at least 15 states. They discriminate against those who don’t have driver’s licenses — disproportionately poor, elderly and minorities. Nationally they could disenfranchise about 5 million voters. Several states are also pushing legislation to restrict voter registration and to limit early voting.
“The current drive is the greatest threat to the Voting Rights Act since it was passed 47 years ago,” said Senator Price. “The Black Caucus urges all Americans to resist any efforts aimed at preventing them exercising their Constitutional right to vote.”