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Rep. John Lewis Commemorates Signing of the Voting Rights Act


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"At 10 AM in the morning 48 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. His signature on that bill changed America forever. Millions of Americans who had been left out of the political process, who had been denied the right to participate in our democracy became registered voters and helped usher in a new and better nation. If it had not been for the Voting Rights Act there would not be as many women and minority elected officials in office today, who strengthen the deliberation of every legislative body where they serve with their sensitivity to the issues of varied cultures and experiences.

We have come a great distance. We have made some progress, but the deliberate, systematic attempt to make it harder and more difficult for many people to participate in the democratic process still exists to this very day. Only hours after the Supreme Court made its decision invalidating Section 4 of the act -- before the ink was even dry -- states changed their law in an effort to suppress the voting rights of some of their citizens.

The vote is precious; it is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. And these actions on the part of state governments serve to demonstrate that the Voting Rights Act is needed now more than ever before. The burden cannot be placed on those citizens whose rights were, or will be, violated to open up the political process. That is the duty of Congress to restore the life and soul to the Voting Rights Act. And we must do it on our watch, at this time."

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