Voting Rights Act Turns 55

Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis

Today, we mark the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Today’s anniversary comes during a time when our nation is, once again, grappling with its long history of treating people differently based on the color of their skin. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution was supposed to fix this. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to fix this. Yet still today, Americans experience disparate treatment in all areas of our government and society because of the color of their skin – and for some Americans, racial discrimination costs their lives.

The Voting Rights Act was intended to curb racial discrimination in voting – the fundamental right to participate in government. But in recent years, its protections have been circumvented and chipped away, most notably by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder.

Georgia’s June elections showed clearly that people of color still experience disparate treatment. Voters who should have received bilingual voting materials received English-only ballot applications. Voters waited for hours at majority-Black polling sites, while voters at white-majority polling places had short or no delays.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the protections stripped away by the Shelby decision. It was passed by the US House of Representatives more than eight months ago – but the Senate has yet to act on it.

Passing that bill into law would be a fitting memorial to our late Representative John Lewis.

Americans of color will not experience equal treatment in any other areas of our government until we have equal voting rights.

And America will never achieve its full potential until all of its people are treated equally.

It’s been 55 years since the Voting Rights Act became law. It’s been 150 years since the 15th amendment was ratified.

It’s time to finally fix this. It’s time to start treating Americans equally – starting with our voting rights.