The vote is the most powerful tool in a democracy. To harness its full power however, voting must be accessible, protected and broadly exercised. In his award-winning history of voting in America, Professor Alexander Keyssar explains that American democracy is contested. He traces the history of the vote from the revolutionary period to contemporary times and shows that our nation, conceived in democratic ideals, has expanded the franchise only gradually and with the concerted efforts of those demanding access to the vote, and through it, to meaningful inclusion within the nation’s political life.
This Friday, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to conduct a day-long briefing on the topic of the federal government’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
USCCR is a federal advisory investigative agency and bipartisan body established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957. When USCCR was founded, then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson observed that USCCR “can be a useful instrument. It can gather facts instead of charges; it can sift out the truth from fancies; and it can return with recommendations which can be of assistance to reasonable [people].” For 60 years, USCCR has played an important role examining the state of minority voting rights access. USCCR published written reports, the first of which was written in 1959, that contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, subsequent extensions of the law as well as other significant voting and civil rights laws.