An Update on Voting Rights
This February, we not only celebrate Black History Month and the vital contributions of African Americans to our national identity; we also mark the 146th anniversary of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited voter discrimination based on race.
Along with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship and equal protection under the law, the Fifteenth Amendment was a foundational step in the struggle for equal rights for all Americans.
Unfortunately, this is a struggle that never ends. Whether in Ferguson, Chicago, or even in North Carolina, African Americans still face daily discrimination, harassment, and violence. Too many African Americans, and other Americans, are stuck in a cycle of generational poverty that makes it impossible to fulfill the promise of the American dream.
Perhaps most disturbingly, a century and a half after the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified and a generation after the landmark Voting Rights Act made good on its promise, North Carolina has implemented new restrictions that will make it harder to register and vote. I strongly oppose these so-called “Voter ID” restrictions, which I believe are specifically designed to disenfranchise minority voters.
The Voter ID law has been challenged in the courts, and I am hopeful that it will be overturned. Earlier this week, a federal judge in Winston-Salem heard closing arguments in the case, and the discriminatory provisions could be lifted before the 2016 elections.
I believe the right to vote is the very bedrock of our democracy. I have been and will remain a vocal advocate for efforts to protect the right of every eligible voter to cast his or her ballot freely and fairly, including congressional efforts to reinstate and strengthen critical protections of the Voting Rights Act.
On this important anniversary, we must not lose ground to the forces of discrimination and exclusion.