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Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, the Fight to Protect Voting Rights Continues

Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, the Fight to Protect Voting Rights Continues

This weekend marks more than the first day of summer; it represents 50 years since the historic Freedom Summer of 1964. Taking place at the height of the civil rights movement, Freedom Summer was a historic undertaking that helped prompt the landmark Voting Rights Act – the fruits of which are at risk today.

Led by black Mississippians and more than 1,000 volunteers from across the nation, Freedom Summer aimed to end the violent abuse and denial of civil rights faced by African Americans in Mississippi. The cornerstone of the project was to register black voters, a group that had long faced intense racial discrimination at the polls. Organizers faced constant abuse and harassment for their work. Three activists were murdered, scores of volunteers were beaten and dozens of churches were bombed.

Fortunately, the blood, sweat and tears of these brave activists were not in vain. Just a year following Freedom Summer, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 into law. The landmark legislation abolished literacy tests, prohibited poll taxes and established a vital system to prevent voter discrimination.

But nearly a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, risking the very gains of Freedom Summer. Since the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder, state after state has sought to implement discriminatory voting measures. From moving polling locations in areas with high populations of minority voters to passing voter ID laws and reducing early voting periods, voters across the country have been plagued with restrictions on their access to the ballot box.

Luckily, there’s a solution. The bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA), is a flexible, modern answer to the problem of discrimination in voting. Introduced in Congress early this year, the VRAA is a workable, commonsense solution that would modernize the elections process and protect voting rights against discrimination. Yet despite bipartisan co-sponsors and strong support from civil and voting rights groups, the legislation has yet to move forward. Next week, the Senate will be holding the first hearing on the bill. Please join us in calling on the House to do the same.

Fifty years after Freedom Summer, we must fight to keep our nation’s hard-won civil rights protections intact. Just this coming November, there are Americans who will not be able to vote because of new discriminatory restrictions. Every day that Congress fails to act, voters’ rights are in danger. Failure to advance this legislation gives a free pass to voting discrimination.

Freedom Summer and the civil rights activists behind it left us with a legacy of strength and bravery in the fight for equal rights for all. Now is the time to build on that legacy through modern, 21st century protections. That begins with moving the VRAA forward. The time for waiting is over – tell your Representative to call for a hearing on the VRAA.

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Photo provided by League of Women Voters.

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69 comments

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8:31AM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

Petition signed

5:10AM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

The GOP, both regular and tea-flavored, are just so good at shooting off their own toes. Those same voting restrictions make it harder for White seniors (much of their base) to vote. Lose your driver's license for any health-related reason, and it becomes a real ordeal to get ID that will be accepted at the polls. Here in VA, DMVs all seem to be located beyond the beyond, in places that don't have bus service.

10:55PM PDT on Jun 25, 2014

Thanks for the post.

3:44PM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

I remember this very well.

2:53PM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

Thanks for the article.

7:18PM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

Tell me Susan T. since you claim to have witnessed a serious federal felony carrying a penalty of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine I assume that you reported it to the authorities? If not, I will assume that you are making the story up.

Regarding present examples of voter discrimination, well here you go (it took me about 5 seconds to compile this list, it is only the tip of the iceberg).

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/08/voting-rights-act-anniversary-discrimination-laws

http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2013/06/26/why-the-voting-rights-act-still-matters-16-recent-examples-of-voter-suppression-and-discrimination/

http://www.citylab.com/politics/2013/06/12-very-real-voter-suppression-tactics-experts-now-worry-will-come-back/6057/

http://www.bluevirginia.us/diary/9609/examples-of-the-voting-rights-act-blocking-discriminatory-voting-laws-in-virginia

http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-supreme-court-strike-down-the-preclearance-provision-of-the-voting-rights-act/voting-rights-acts-section-5-still-stopping-discrimination-today

http://www.866ourvote.org/issues/voter-challenges-voter-intimidation

So can we assume you are "on the bandwagon"?

5:49PM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

Why did this "blog" lead with history from the year I was born?

If a person could tell me honestly where voter discrimination is happening I will jump on that band wagon .

Personal experience has shown me otherwise. If discrimination against people happens in the south it should be stopped. Up here I know people voted illegally for obama.

12:42PM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

The Kochs are 70+ year old men reached their lifespan are sick hoarders of money & they would buy politicians for tax cuts (besides chartable contributions for tax cuts) and slash voting rights, worker's rights and social programs. Follow the money---and why voting rights being slashed means a great deal to those who want to own our country.

8:09AM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

...oh yes, I also signed the petition.

8:09AM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

Laws are being reversed and voting rights are once again under siege.

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