National: 2016: First Presidential Election Since Voting Rights Act Gutted | Ari Berman/Rolling Stone
As a young civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis was brutally beaten marching for the right to vote in Selma, Alabama. Lewis’s heroism spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the country’s most important civil rights law. But three years ago this week, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court invalidated the centerpiece of the law, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer needed to approve their voting changes with the federal government. “The Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act,” Lewis said after the decision. That means the 2016 election is the first presidential contest in 50 years without the full protections of the VRA — and the country is witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights since the act was passed five decades ago. This year, 17 states have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election cycle, including laws that make it harder to register to vote, cut back early voting and require strict forms of government-issued IDs to cast a ballot that millions of Americans don’t have.