Urges Congress on VRA: Obama Congress Restore Voting Rights Act
Published: August 13, 2015
Urges Congress on VRA: Obama Congress Restore Voting Rights Act, President Obama marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act last week in Washington. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)
President Obama is continuing to urge Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act, the historic 1965 law removing legal barriers that prevented African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.
“Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier — not harder — for more Americans to have their voices heard,” Obama wrote in a letter to the New York Times Magazine published online Wednesday. The president said he was “inspired” by Jim Rutenberg’s Aug. 2 cover story, “A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.”
“The Voting Rights Act put an end to literacy tests and other forms of discrimination, helping to close the gap between our promise that all of us are created equal and our long history of denying some of us the right to vote,” Obama wrote. “The impact was immediate, and profound — the percentage of African-Americans registered to vote skyrocketed in the years after the Voting Rights Act was passed. But as Rutenberg chronicles, from the moment the ink was dry on the Voting Rights Act, there has been a concentrated effort to undermine this historic law and turn back the clock on its progress.”
“These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act,” the president continued. “Too often, they are rooted in that history. They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations.”
In his story, Rutenberg profiled Rosanell Eaton, a plaintiff in a North Carolina case arguing to repeal voting restrictions that were enacted in 2013. Obama called the 94-year-old an “unsung American hero.”
“She has not given up,” he wrote. “She’s still marching. She’s still fighting to make real the promise of America. She still believes that We the People have the awesome power to make our union more perfect. And if we join her, we, too, can reaffirm the fundamental truth of the words Rosanell recited.”
When Obama was elected in 2008, Rutenberg notes, black voter turnout was nearly equal to white voter turnout for the first time.
“I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality,” the president wrote.
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