Wednesday, July 2, 2014 was the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed racial discrimination in the most essential aspects of life - such as employment, schools, public accommodations and housing. It also laid the ground work for key voting protections that allowed African Americans to register to vote and eventually led to the prohibition on poll taxes and literacy tests.
The Civil Rights Act sought to fulfill the promise of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the laws, including access to the ballot box. However, it ultimately took the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for the federal government to be able to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But for a little known Republican from Ohio, the Civil Rights Act might not have passed. William McCulloch of Piqua, Ohio was the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and an ardent supporter of civil rights. Despite political pressure from his district to oppose the Civil Rights Act, McCulloch delivered the necessary votes to pass the controversial bill.
On this 50th anniversary, the call to renew the Voting Rights Act could not be more urgent. Today Speaker John Boehner represents McCulloch’s district, and it’s now up to the Speaker to carry McCulloch’s torch and help get the Voting Rights Amendment Act passed.
Just over one year ago, the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which prevented racial discrimination at the polls since 1965. In Shelby v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court invited Congress to update the Voting Rights Act, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers has done so with the introduction of the VotingRights Amendment Act (VRAA). Unfortunately, the bill has stalled in the House of Representatives and time is running out to pass it.
Despite great progress in the last 50 years, voting discrimination continues to be a problem. For this reason, a forward-looking and effective VRAA is essential to ensuring that no voter is denied the right to vote and everyone has that right protected equally. The legacy of the Civil Rights Act depends on the passage of the VRAA, as there is no right more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote.
In order to build momentum, the vote must be scheduled before Congress recesses in August.
Call and ask Speaker Boehner to schedule a vote on the VRAA (Click here for
a call script).