Keeping the Promise: The Voting Rights Act Must Live On

August 14, 2015

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, it marked a turning point in our nation’s long and painful march toward equality for all. What was enshrined in our Constitution from the start – that all men are created equal – was in reality, never realized in the eyes of our laws. Instead, centuries of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crowe voter intimidation left African Americans and other minorities politically voiceless and relegated to an underclass in our society. The stroke of Johnson’s pen was never going to exorcise this stain from our nation – no law can fully force the end of hate. But for 48 years, the VRA held back the tides of intolerance, allowing for a tremendous swell in black voter registration, turnout and elected officials.

One reason for the VRA’s unmitigated success was the fact that both political parties embraced and strengthened it throughout the years. Congress reauthorized the Act four times, building on its protections and expanding its reach. But in 2013, just seven years after it was reauthorized by a vote of 390 to 33 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate, the Supreme Court invalidated a key component of the law in their Shelby County v. Holder decision. The Court asserted that the law had achieved its ends, and its continuation was punishing states for past mistakes. However, those states wasted no time proving that the past sins were ever present in modern society.

Read Rep. Grijalva's full Op-Ed in the Green Valley News here.