The voting rights battle continues!
By EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
U.S. House of Representatives
The unencumbered right to vote in elections has been eliminated and severely restricted for hundreds of thousands of our country’s citizens since 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided to diminish the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by eliminating a provision in it that mandated federal oversight of jurisdictions whose policies and practices were biased, and in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
With a full understanding of the importance of giving every eligible voter the right to select those who represent them in the halls of government, all of my Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives voted on Dec. 6 to pass H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The legislation, if successful in the Senate and signed into law by the president, would restore a much-needed provision in the Voting Rights Act, requiring federal intervention in states where restrictive voting practices and behavior is present. Only one Republican member in the House voted in favor of the bill, which was passed by of vote of 228 to 187.
Sixteen years ago when the 1965 Voting Rights Act was considered in Congress it was extended without little opposition in the House of Representatives, and with no opposition in the Senate. The president, George W. Bush, eagerly signed the bi-partisan legislation.
All of that has changed now with a Republican Party influenced by dogma articulated by the current occupant of the White House, aligned with socially regressive forces that assist him in the enactment of his non-inclusive agenda, and his divisive government.
Approximately half of the states in the country taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision have voting practices such as photo identification requirements, which have produced hurdles to voting, particularly for racial minorities and students who tend to support the Democratic Party.
A number of state legislatures, emboldened by the 2013 Supreme Court decision, have shamefully passed voter suppression laws designed to prevent racial minorities from voting, using such tactics as relocating voting precincts great distances from the home of voters, and establishing time limits for the periods in which people may register to vote. These actions have been deplorable.
I urge the Republican-controlled Senate, especially the two Republican senators that represent the state of Texas, to quickly consider H.R. 4, pass it and send it on to the White House. If its members do that, they will demonstrate that they consider voting a sacred right which people marched for, fought for and died for in our country.
Voting is the breath that gives our democracy its very life. We must extend it fully to all eligible citizens. Fairness demands the passage of the legislation in the Senate.
It will be reprehensible if the Senate fails in its duty. If they do not pass the legislation, the entire world will witness that its members have no concern for full citizen participation in our democracy.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. She also chairs the House committee on Science, Space and Technology.