Half a century ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought an end to the era of Jim Crow by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. One year later, the landmark legislation was strengthened and expanded when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965. The Voting Rights Act prohibited discrimination in voting and, together with the Civil Rights Act, enshrines the principles upon which our nation was founded. These laws serve as a testament to all who sacrificed to work toward ending segregation and discrimination. For nearly half a century, the Voting Rights Act has stood as a central pillar in the protection of fair voting practices. Our nation now faces the greatest threat to voting rights since Reconstruction.
Last year, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The decision severely undermines the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act. Although legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to address this flawed decision, Congress has yet to take action. Shelby County has allowed more than a dozen states with histories of voter discrimination to implement new restrictions on voting.
When it comes time for voting, voter suppression is far too prevalent throughout our country. We need not look further than our own state of Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott has made repeated attempts to purge Florida’s voter database despite the fact that his attempt to do so in 2011 was suspended by the U.S. Department of Justice. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled last month that Gov. Scott’s administration violated federal law when he tried to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls immediately prior to the 2012 presidential election.