WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) released the following statement in commemoration of the 54th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson signing Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Fifty four years ago, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) into law. This landmark legislation is one of the crowning achievements of the Civil Rights Movement and for our American democracy, outlawing the discriminatory barriers to the polls and holding states accountable for the obstacles imposed on citizens who sought to fulfill their constitutional right.
“The VRA opened doors for Black American across the south to register, cast a vote and run for office, in higher numbers than ever before – a victory hard-won through non-violent demonstrations, voter registration drives, and peaceful protests that were met with resistance and violence from local governments.
“Over a half a century later, many of those who fought for this right and lived through this era have also witnessed the resurgence of voter ID laws and discrimination following the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which gutted the preclearance provisions VRA. Deceptive practices and voter intimidation efforts continue to target minority groups across the nation. This anniversary serves as a reminder of our responsibility to fight to restore these vital protections and protect all citizens’ ability to exercise their right.
“Today, approximately 3.1 million American citizens are unable to cast a vote because of a prior felony conviction. The state laws that disenfranchise returning citizens disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities. As of 2016, more than 7 percent of the voting-age African-American population, or 2,200,000 African-Americans, was disenfranchised. There is no justification for denying people who have paid their dues, who live and work in their communities, from having a voice in their democracy. This year, I reintroduced The Democracy Restoration Act to restore their right to vote in federal elections, and allow them to regain their voice and their power in the democratic process.
“Voting is a fundamental right of citizenship, as stated in the Constitution. Our democracy depends on our commitment to upholding this foundational liberty for all, as so many did to see the VRA become law 54 years ago. Today, we celebrate and commit ourselves to the guarantee of that freedom.”