Today, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement marking the 48th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act. President Lyndon Johnson signed this historic law on August 6, 1965:
"The Voting Rights Act was enacted only after years of those in the civil rights movement marching and in some cases being beaten or dying for the right to vote. For 48 years, the Voting Rights Act has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans.
"It can be argued that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is this country's most significant civil rights law," Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said. "Nothing is more fundamental to what this nation stands for than ensuring that every American citizen has equal access to the polls, regardless of race, gender, national origin, religion or language. Because of the efforts of the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, who held the seat I currently hold and was the first woman member from Texas to serve on the Judiciary Committee, the Voting Rights Act was amended in 1975 to protect language minorities.
"Unfortunately, on June 25, the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 decision of Shelby County v Holder, took a step backwards on the Voting Rights Act, by holding that the formula in Section 4 of the Act was unconstitutional and could no longer be used. However, the majority opinion also clearly stated that it was fully within the power of Congress to act to restore the Voting Rights Act, in line with the decision.
"Ever since 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress," Congresswoman Jackson Lee pointed out. "For example, in its most recent reauthorization in 2006, the Voting Rights Act was renewed for 25 years by a vote of 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate."
"As a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over voting rights legislation, I call upon Members on both sides of the aisle to continue that bipartisan tradition and work together this fall to enact a legislative fix in response to the Supreme Court decision -- a fix that will succeed in ensuring that the Voting Rights Act protects the right to vote for years to come," Congresswoman Jackson Lee concluded. "Our country has made much progress toward equality. But, as President George W. Bush said in 2006, "the work for a more perfect union is never ending.' I am optimistic that we can succeed. Restoring the Voting Rights Act to its full strength would be a big step in the direction of "a more perfect union.'"