The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which turned 50 in August, is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement and the most important civil rights law of the 20th century. When he signed the legislation at the U.S. Capitol, President Lyndon Johnson described the act as the final victory against America’s original sin of slavery. “Today we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds,” Johnson said. The act had an immediate transformative impact. Literacy tests were suspended across the South, the attorney general filed lawsuits successfully challenging the poll tax, and government observers were sent to monitor elections in the South’s most segregated areas. Within days of the act’s signing, federal examiners were registering black voters at a rapid clip in places like Selma, Ala. The law has enfranchised millions of Americans over the last five decades and enabled the election of the country’s first black president. But the act didn’t end the debate over voting rights, as Johnson predicted. In recent years there has been a proliferation of new measures to tighten access to the ballot, such as requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, shutting down voter-registration drives, curtailing early voting, disenfranchising ex-felons, purging the voter rolls, and mandating government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot.
After the 2010 election, half the states in the country, nearly all under Republican control, passed laws making it harder to vote, with the aim of making the electorate older, whiter, and more conservative instead of younger, more diverse, and more progressive.
Pennsylvania was one of them. In 2012, House Republican leader Mike Turzai predicted the state’s strict voter-ID law would “allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” The law was ultimately blocked in court because “hundreds of thousands of electors in Pennsylvania lack compliant ID,” wrote Judge Bernard McGinley, and the state “wholly failed to show any evidence of in-person voter fraud” to justify the measure.
Full Article: Despite VRA, right to vote under siege.