This speech is dedicated to the protection and further defining Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for all.
Voting Rights for All
Imagine that you have just turned 18 and now have the legal right to vote. Lucky for you have come of age to have the right to vote just before the campaigning for the presidential elections will begin. Your first time voting will now be unforgettable for you will be a part of choosing the next person to be in charge of running the United States of America, among other things, of course. Now, months later after all the campaigning and presidential debates, it is the morning of Election Day and you make sure to be on time to your designated area of voting so that there is plenty of allotted time for you to go about the rest of your day to run errands. Now imagine, your turn in line finally comes, only for you to be rejected because of your race/ethnicity or gender. Imagine you get to your assigned voting location only to find out that it has been, conveniently, switched at the last moment. Imagine that the line to vote is so long when you get there that you wait until you can no longer cast a vote because time has run out and now you didn’t get to vote and your right to vote no longer means anything. These instances happened in the past, present, and will happen in the future if there is no call to action. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 needs to be amended and reaffirmed. Doing so is the only way to ensure protection of voting rights for all.
Almost 48 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights activists led by him on a peaceful protest in Selma, Alabama and were viciously attacked. This tragic event is what ultimately led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, in front of the U.S. Congress and Members of the Cabinet. The act prohibited “discrimination based on race, and requires certain jurisdictions to provide bilingual assistance to language minority voters.” (History of the VRA) Section 5 requires “covered” states “to obtain “preclearance” from either the District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. Attorney General for any new voting practices and procedures.” (Voting Rights Act (1965)) This was a monumental victory for the followers and activists of the Civil Rights movement and signs of progress within our country. It has barely been a century since the signing of the act in 1965 and just nearly a decade since the act was reaffirmed in 2006.
As you all may know, right now the current constitutionality of the act is in question by the Supreme Court because of the Shelby County v. Holder case. For those of you that do not know, Shelby County’s petition was granted in November of 2012 and limited to one important question: “Whether Congress decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.” (Shelby County, Alabama, Petitioner v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, et al.). Now this speaker who stands here before you does not think Congress exceeded its authority and did not violate any amendments. The speaker before you firmly believes in what the act currently represents and what the act should represent. The act is absolutely necessary for any one person that says racism and prejudice is dead and long gone is naïve. Yes, we as a people have come a long way and made much progress, but in regards to ensuring protection for one’s right to vote from racism and prejudice has a long ways to go, and, perhaps, we may never be rid of them, fully. But a way to make certain that we as a people are coming closer to being rid of them is to protect ourselves from room for error.
That is why this speaker believes that the act is completely necessary and should be amended, but not in the ways that Shelby County may hope for. The act should be amended so that all 50 states in America are made “covered” states. Doing so will make certain that no matter where one lives in a state, that their rights to vote are protected from any kind of discrimination from all states actions in regards to voting to being better monitored. This will make it more of a certainty that states cannot shut down poll booths early or make people wait in seemingly endless lines to cast their votes or switch the designated voting location at the last moment. This act is absolutely necessary and should protect all from discrimination by every single state. I leave you all with this quote: “"This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies." – Lyndon B. Johnson.
United States. Supreme Court of the United States. Shelby County, Alabama, Petitioner v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, et al. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court of the United States, 2013. Web. http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/12-96.htm
United States. National Archives and Records Administration. Voting Rights Act (1965). College Park. Web.http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=100.
United States. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. History of the VRA. Washington, D.C. Web. http://www.civilrights.org/voting-rights/vra/johnson-speech.html.
United States. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. President Johnson Speech at Voting Rights Act Passage. Washington, D.C. Web. http://www.civilrights.org/voting-rights/vra/johnson-speech.html. (Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965. Volume II, entry 394, pp. 811-815. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1966.)