The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated prejudicial voting restrictions towards black and Hispanic voters. Yet today, black voters in the United States today face similar restrictions to those in the 1940s. This alarmed a New York Times reporter and President Barack Obama, who penned a letter to the editor with his concerns.
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For four decades, the act stopped segregationists by giving the federal government the power to make universal voting laws. It barred states from issuing literacy tests, allowed registrars to accept forms of identification more common among the black community, and extended the voter registration deadline to Election Day. Black voters increased in number, though over the years Republicans targeted the Voting Rights Act. Since 2000, at least 13 states have enforced laws to undo the act’s progress, the New York Times reports. “These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act,” Obama wrote. “They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations.”
For example, such a bill reportedly passed in North Carolina in 2013 without one vote by Democratic support. Now a law, it restricts Rosanell Eaton, a black voter who fought Jim Crows laws 70 years ago, from registering. She, the North Carolina NAACP, and other activists act as plaintiffs in a case against the state. They claim the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well as the original act. The President calls for the aid of Congress and state legislatures to uphold the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality,” he wrote. “It is now up to us to continue those efforts.”
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Read more of President Obama’s response to the New York Times here.