Voting Rights Act: Fighting to Keep What Our Grandparents Gave Us
A coalition of Civil Rights activists, politicians and young people converged at the U.S. Supreme Court steps this week as nine chief justices argued whether to change a law that protects voters from discrimination.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 broke barriers to the ballot box for Americans who had previously been disenfranchised. The law mainly applied to 16 states with a history of disenfranchising black voters, and allowed the federal government to halt discriminatory state election rules and laws.
In the current case, Shelby County charged that a 2006 congressional decision to reauthorize Section 5 was unconstitutional.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addressed the rally on the Supreme Court steps on Wednesday.
"Voting rights is about who we are as Americans. It is about the cause of equality, our nation's heritage and our hope. It is about the strength of our democracy," Pelosi said. "The right to vote must be persevered. The right to vote must be protected. The right to vote must remain the cornerstone of our democracy, and that right to vote must be for all Americans."
Students from the University of the District of Columbia, Howard University, and visiting schools listened on as speakers told our generation to stand and act.
“The people that don’t really have a voice, I feel like I’m in a position to where I can make my voice heard a little bit more," a student from Florida who goes by September, told Campus Progress at the rally. "For me it’s to be that voice for those people, the people that don’t have the rights…That’s why I’m here, that’s why everybody else is here.”
“How unfortunate it is that we have to keep fighting for a right that people have fought so long to keep," said Tiffany Loftin, president of the U.S. Student Association. "It’s 2013 and I’m still here talking about how people of color don’t have the right to vote.” she continued. “We [USSA] want universal voter registration so this is one short-term goal to get to that long-term vision.”
Rev. Al Sharpton chanted from the podium: “No Justice, No Peace,” to rouse the crowd.
“We are not going to let them take from us what our grandparents and parents fought and suffered and died to give us in the first place," he shouted. "Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, gay, straight, it don’t matter! We are united together. The power of the people will not be denied.”
Julie Thompson is a communications intern for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @thomp_julie.