Fifty-six years after the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Black women are still doing the work necessary to ensure that all eligible Americans are able to participate in the democratic process. It’s an ongoing fight, made increasingly difficult by legislation across pockets of the United States that is re-introducing barriers to those interested in exercising their civic duty.
In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election that ultimately catapulted President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris into the White House, news of disappearing mailboxes, purged voting rolls and modern-day poll taxes made daily headlines. Now, in the aftermath of their victory, some legislators are working overtime to create voting obstacles.
Last week the country celebrated the anniversary of the landmark legislation that ended overt practices aimed at disenfranchising Black voters, but today, that measure remains under attack.
“The Voting Rights Act has been a necessary part of our democracy and to me, protecting and strengthening it is personal,” says Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org in a statement shared with EBONY. “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it possible for my great-grandfather to vote for the first time in Anderson, South Carolina, years after he served his country during World War I.”
Through Vote.org, Hailey is mobilizing men and women to push back against passed legislation in states like Florida and Georgia that will disrupt the process of voting by mail and by drop box. “Depending on where you live, these laws could make it harder for you to vote in the next election,” says Hailey. “Our freedom to vote is under attack.”
Protections were included in the original Voting Rights Act, that required states and counties to receive federal approval before changing voting laws. The stipulation prevented those places with a history of discrimination from making a push to shut people out of the political process. But in 2013, the Supreme Court suspended the practice.
“Against the backdrop of the most coordinated state-level effort to restrict the right to vote in generations, the Supreme Court has dealt a series of disastrous blows to the Voting Rights Act, gutting key provisions and rendering it all but toothless in the face of relentless, modern-day Jim Crow attacks,” said Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell on Friday. “The gutted provisions of the Voting Rights Act can no longer protect us from those extremists who have always sought to silence us. As President Biden said, we face the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.”
Sewell plans to reintroduce her voting rights bill in Congress. The Democratic Rep says that H.R. 4, renamed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act following the late Congressmen’s death, would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court.