A project of the Center for Community Change

The Voting Rights Act: Why Are We Regressing?

By: Kris Kelkar

You would think that since the civil rights movement in the 1960s, America would have moved beyond trying to restrict the rights of voters. You would think. But you’d be wrong.

voteOver the past few years, more than 30 states have passed laws that require voters to present photo ID to vote.  Having a photo ID is not something all people can acquire, because getting a photo ID can mean overcoming language barriers, economic issues and lack of transportation.

To make matters worse, the Supreme Court struck down an article of the Voting Rights Act, removing the federal government’s check on state voting procedures. After a century of state-sanctioned discrimination through the Jim Crow laws, civil rights organizers won a battle for federal voting rights.

But when the Supreme Court ruled the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, it was like all of the hard work to protect our voting rights during the civil rights era was erased. Literally two hours after the SCOTUS decision, Texas passed a law requiring photo ID to vote. And only after the SCOTUS decision could Florida re-instate a useless voter screening process – making voting in low-income, urban and minority-dense areas much more difficult.

Further, many states bar convicted felons from voting privileges, making 13% of the country’s male black population ineligible to vote. Virginia is taking a unique step forward by lifting this ban on voting rights for some felons . While I applaud this efforts, I am still uneasy about how our country can still be arguing over who does and does not get to vote.

Voting is our right as American citizens. So 50 years after securing the right to vote for all of our citizens, why are we regressing?

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