“The recent anniversaries of the civil rights movement have left me awash in memories, some of adolescent disappointment and impatience to make my own decisions, some more poignant….
“Freedom Summer was all about voting. In 1964 Mississippi, voting-eligible black citizens were required to fill out a 21-page application and answer a question about any of the 285 sections of the state constitution to the satisfaction of the white registrar. The state, not surprisingly, had the lowest percentage of black voter registration of any state in the country. Plagued by intimidation and deadly violence all summer, the volunteers of Freedom Summer did not succeed in registering many voters, but they did catapult the injustices in the south to daily media coverage, much of it vividly moving. I was not there, but I was mesmerized by the black and white film and the horrifying sounds. For so many people, including myself, it was a political awakening to the evils of racism….
“It took me 40 years after that to focus my legal career on voting rights. Astonishingly, we are fighting discriminatory voting laws all over again, albeit on a much more subtle level. It seems that every move toward racial equality has been met with an equal and opposite move backward….But having seen it all before, I am impatient. I can only hope that it won’t be another 50 years before the demagoguery is ended once and for all.”
Read more of Ms. Rogers’ story at the American Constitution Society blog.
One year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, gutting the preclearance requirements of the Act. The Court’s main criticism of Section 4(b) was that its coverage formula, used to determine which states and local jurisdictions needed preclearance for voting changes per Section 5, was out of date. Fortunately, the Court invited Congress to step in and enact an updated coverage formula. An updated, modern coverage formula is necessary to allow the Voting Rights Act to continue to combat discrimination before a person’s rights are actually violated.
Congress’s approval ratings are at all-time record lows. Americans have lost faith in our elected officials. The public no longer believes that Congress can get past the partisan gridlock plaguing our nation and achieve anything of substance. However, members of Congress have been given an historic opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the American people. They can prove that the system can still function, that they can come together across the aisle to make our democracy work for every citizen.
Gillibrand announced plans to introduce an online voter registration bill to allow citizens to register to vote on their “computers, smartphones, or tablets,” a policy that is gaining more bipartisan attention in recent years.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, as the Senate confirmed the appointment of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) sent Secretary Burwell a letter emphasizing the importance of properly incorporating voter registration services into the federal Exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). (The letter may be read here.)