U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and 22 other Senators today introduced a Senate Resolution to recognize, commemorate, and celebrate the 55th anniversary of the enactment of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Lyndon Johnson proposed the legislation just days after the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, during which the late Representative John Lewis was savagely beaten by law enforcement officers while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what was to become known as "Bloody Sunday." The Voting Rights Act passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965.
Since 2013, many States have passed discriminatory voting laws that have made it more difficult for people of color and low-income individuals to vote in elections. Nearly 1,200 polling locations have closed since the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The country is witnessing a spread of voter suppression laws sweep across the country. From voter identification laws, to voter roll purges, elected officials are making it hard for Americans to vote. This Resolution affirms the Senate's commitment to modernizing and strengthening the Act through further legislative efforts.
"The Voting Rights Act was a landmark law, only made possible by the efforts of so many -- including our late friend and colleague, John Lewis -- who fought fiercely for every American's right to vote," said Senator Van Hollen. "But 55 years later, communities of color are too often deliberately denied that fundamental right. In commemorating this historic anniversary, we must fight all the harder to stamp out voter suppression, pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and follow John's exhortation to get in the way of injustice."
"Today we commemorate and remember those who fought so hard and gave so much for the right to vote and celebrate the anniversary of this historic legislation," said Senator Markey. "But we cannot stop there. We must commit ourselves to fully restoring and strengthening the Voting Rights Act, and to fighting any effort to suppress voting."
The full text of the resolution is available here.
Cosponsoring the Resolution are Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
"55 years later, the Voting Rights Act remains a powerful reminder that America can move closer to our highest ideals -- but only if we insist on it, work at it, and take seriously our responsibility as citizens in this democracy," said Senator Bennet."Today that means protecting our right to vote from threats like voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, disinformation, and elections awash in special interest money. It also means not only celebrating the Voting Rights Act, but strengthening it for the 21st century."
"Today, as we mark the 55th anniversary of the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, we also honor the legacy of those who sacrificed so much to fight for the right to vote, including the late Congressman John Lewis," said Senator Hirono. "His lifetime of advocacy for gaining and protecting access to the ballot box should remain our guide as we stand firmly against Donald Trump's continued attacks on our elections, including his efforts to suppress voter turnout, shut down the U.S. Postal Service, and undermine voting by mail."
"Today's anniversary is a time to remember all of the great Americans who fought for their God-given right to vote, 55 years ago," said Senator Wyden. "And it's yet another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the hard work of carrying on that fight against all of the forces that are intent on suppressing Americans' right to vote safely and securely."
"Fifty five years ago the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law to protect the constitutional right to vote and this right remains under attack today. Our fight to take on voter suppression and ensure access to the ballot is not over," said Senator Baldwin. "That is why we must take action and pass the bipartisan John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore full protections for all Americans' right to vote. I am proud to join with my colleagues in the Senate to do right by John Lewis and work together to end voting discrimination so we can guarantee that all Americans have equal access to vote and let their voices be heard."
"The Voting Rights Act gave voting protections to millions of Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans who were previously shut out of the democratic process," said Senator Cortez Masto. "This legislation is a monument to the leaders of the civil rights movement, including Congressman John Lewis, who put their lives on the line so that America could live up to its promise for all Americans. It remains one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in American history. However, communities of color across the United States still face barriers to exercising their right to vote because bad actors have worked to roll back these key protections. I'm proud to sponsor this resolution to commemorate this vital piece of legislation, while also rededicating myself to fighting for legislation that builds on this legacy and protects every American's right to participate in the safe, free and fair elections that are the bedrock of this nation."
"Voting is a basic and fundamental right. On behalf of the generations who fought valiantly to rid our country of oppressive and racist restrictions on access to the ballot box, we fully dedicate ourselves to the goals of the Voting Rights Act and commit to fight pernicious efforts to roll back hard-fought civil rights protections," said Senator Blumenthal.
"Voting is the most sacred right, and as U.S. citizens we must fight to protect this right now more than ever," said Senator Menendez. "The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was only possible because of the "good trouble' caused by those like Congressman John Lewis who took to heart the mission of defending and fully participating in our democracy to shape this nation for the better. As we mourn Congressman Lewis's passing, the best way we can honor his legacy is by recommitting ourselves to the fight for the right to vote and fully restore this historic legislation. And together, we must stand up to Republican's efforts to suppress voting in 2020 and beyond."
"As we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark bill to end racial discrimination in voting, we must remind ourselves there is still work to be done," said Senator Feinstein. "The Constitution guarantees the right to vote but institutional barriers exist to prevent voters of color from exercising that right. Our resolution will remind Americans of the progress we've made, the challenges we still face and the need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to overcome them."
"Despite the signing of the original Voting Rights Act 55 years ago today, hundreds of thousands of Americans are still denied their rights at the ballot box. The right to vote is at the heart of our democracy, and Congress must work to put an end to the systemic disenfranchisement that hurts so many marginalized communities," said Senator Kaine. "I'm proud to join my colleagues in recognizing the important history of this fight, and will keep pushing Republican leadership to put the Voting Rights Advancement Act up for a vote."
"The right to vote is one of the most sacred fundamental American rights. It's a right that so many Americans fought and risked their lives for to ensure that every man and woman -- no matter their income or skin color-- can participate in our elections,"said Senator Warner. "This resolution commemorates 55 years since the enactment of the landmark Voting Rights Act and the work that remains, particularly after the Shelby v. Holder decision, to protect voting rights and ensure that all Americans have their voices heard at the ballot box."
"As John Lewis recognized, the promise of America will never be fulfilled until each and every American has guaranteed and equal access to the ballot box," said Senator Merkley. "American elections should be won or lost by convincing the voters, not by denying some of them the right to cast a ballot. So on this anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act, I would hope that every Democrat and Republican who recently praised Congressman Lewis's lifetime of leadership and heroism will commit to a full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act. All Americans must be able to fully participate in our democracy."
"With this resolution commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we honor the sacrifices of civil rights leaders and activists who put their lives and bodies on the line to fight for the fundamental right to vote," said Senator Durbin."Unfortunately, far too many Americans--particularly in communities of color--continue to face unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to the ballot box. Addressing these challenges begins by restoring the Voting Rights Act and ensuring that voting is accessible to every American."
"While we celebrate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we must recommit to the fight for equality and fairness at the voting booth," said Senator Harris. "Voter suppression is still happening around the country in the form of strict voter ID laws, limited voting hours, long wait times, and voter roll purges. Now more than ever, we must -- as Congressman John Lewis said -- get into "good trouble' to ensure that we protect and expand access to the ballot box in America."
"We mark fifty-five years since the Voting Rights Act became law only weeks after losing one of its fiercest defenders -- John Lewis," said Senator Shaheen. "As we celebrate this historic legislation, we must recommit to fully restoring its intent. It is on us to finish the work that John Lewis and so many others risked their lives for to end voter disenfranchisement for Black and minority Americans, and all those who have been victims of voter suppression."