Threats abound as Voting Rights Act marks 47th anniversary


by Félix Pérez

Forty-seven years ago today, Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson charted a new course for the nation when they made the Voting Rights Act the law of the land, effectively putting an end to discriminatory voting requirements and qualifications targeting African Americans. The landmark civil rights law halted notorious state poll taxes and literacy tests.

Fast forward to the present day, when the right to vote is at risk for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of African Americans, Hispanics, students, inner-city residents and the elderly.

Many of the Republican-controlled states that have passed restrictive voting law changes — including Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — are states in which the presidential election is expected to be extremely close. The changes, conclude independent studies and reports, result in hurdles that prevent law-abiding citizens from voting, require photo identification that 20 million Americans don’t have, take away the flexibility that parents and workers need to vote early or on weekends, and block volunteers from helping others with their voter registration paperwork.

Wisconsin Circuit Judge Richard Niess, in ruling against that state’s voter ID law this March, warned of the dangers inherent in such laws:

A government that undermines the right to vote imperils its own legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people and especially of the people.

Here are some resources to help you stay informed about voting law changes, have ready access to current information, and spread the word about how to protect every eligible voter’s right to vote:

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