Today, August 6, 2020, marks the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a momentous piece of legislation that was designed to protect the rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th amendments by prohibiting discrimination in voting. The act was responsible for expanding access to the voting booth for many people, particularly Black Americans. Unfortunately, in 2013, the Supreme Court effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act in its Shelby County v. Holder decision, opening the door for states to implement discriminatory voter suppression tactics that make it harder for Americans to vote, particularly Black Americans and other people of color.

In December, the House of Representatives passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act, recently renamed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act to commemorate the legacy of the late Congressman John Lewis, which would restore key provisions of the VRA and affirm that every American citizen has the right to cast a ballot free from discrimination. Thus far, the Senate has failed to act on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, but it can take immediate steps now to protect the integrity of the November 2020 election.

Brent J. Cohen, the executive director of Generation Progress, issued the following statement in response:

“The 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act comes at a particularly poignant moment in American history—and it serves as a reminder of how fragile universal voting access truly is. Even now, over a half a century after the VRA was first enacted, young voters, low-income voters, and voters of color face deliberate and deeply harmful barriers to voting that undermine the cornerstone of our democracy. 

“As we approach one of the most consequential elections of our nation’s history, during the greatest public health crises in over a century, it has never been more critical for Congress to provide the funding that is desperately needed to ensure fair, safe, and healthy elections this November.” 

To learn more or to speak with an expert, contact eleach@americanprogress.org.

Get updates on these issues and more! Sign up to receive email updates on the latest actions, events, and updates impacting 18- to 35-year-olds.