WASHINGTON, DC– Today, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, (D-N.J.) released the following statement commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act into law fifty years ago today.
“Today, and every day, I am reminded that we drink deeply from wells of freedom and liberty that we ourselves did not dig. As we reflect on the myriad of challenges our country continues to face, it’s vital that we remember just how far we have come by relentlessly defending and advancing the American dream of liberty and justice for all.
“I am troubled by continued efforts to roll back provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which still has a central role to play in protecting vital American civil rights. The right to vote is fundamental and must be protected. Yet, far too often, Americans are disenfranchised by restrictive photo ID laws or laws that prevent formerly incarcerated people from exercising this right. We all stand on the shoulders of those who fought courageously to elevate the moral conscience of our nation by marching and dying for this sacred right, and I am committed to honoring, protecting, and advancing the legacy of the Voting Rights Act and what it means for our democracy.”
In June, Sen. Booker joined Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) of 2015, legislation that targets certain voting practices known to suppress the voting rights of minorities. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, introduced an identical measure in the House.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA), first enacted in 1965 with large bipartisan support, is a landmark law that prohibits discriminatory voting practices that have been responsible for the denial and abridgement of the voting rights of racial, ethnic, and language minorities in the U.S. This law has been responsible for much of the progress made to outlaw discriminatory voting practices in America over the last 50 years.
Two years ago, a narrowly split and deeply divided Supreme Court disregarded extensive findings of Congress and gutted the Voting Rights Act. In a case known as Shelby County v. Holder, five Justices on the Supreme Court put the Voting Rights Act on life support by striking down the formula by which Congress determines which states and localities are subject to preclearance. That 2013 decision has nullified the ability of the federal government to use the preclearance requirement. Section 5 has protected constitutional guarantees against discrimination in voting even when civil rights laws tried for over 100 years to achieve the success of the Voting Rights Act. The Court reached its decision despite Congress finding an overwhelming record of contemporary voting discrimination. Even the Chief Justice wrote, “voting discrimination still exists: no one doubts that.”