The Selma March and Voting Rights Today

This month marked the 49th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights, a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement and the fight for equal voting rights. The historic march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helped raise awareness and draw national attention to discrimination faced by black voters in the South. The march is famous for having spurred action to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, landmark legislation that ensured every American citizen, regardless of race or language, has equal access to the vote.

But last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, a move that has led to a full frontal attack on the voting rights of all Americans. As soon as the Supreme Court released its ruling, states were free to move forward with suppressive voting measures, including those that had previously been barred as racially discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. Almost a year later, the fallout from the Supreme Court's decision continues.

Fortunately, Congress is taking action. Early this year, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (VRAA). The legislation provides critical, common sense solutions to fight off modern-day voter suppression efforts and repair the Voting Rights Act. The legislation also makes it clear that equal access to the ballot box is about justice and equality, not about politics. Join with the League and tell your members of Congress to work swiftly to pass the VRAA.

Today's barriers to the ballot might look different than they did in 1965, but they remain threats to our democracy all the same. Forty-nine years ago, King powerfully told the crowd in Montgomery, AL, "I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world, that we are not about to turn around.” Nearly half a century later, we still refuse to turn around in the face of voter discrimination. As put by the NAACP’s Julian Bond, “to protect the gains of the past 50 years, we need to ensure that our laws continue to protect against discrimination in 21st-century America.”

We honor the Selma activists who tirelessly – and unflinchingly – fought for equal access to the ballot, and we urge Congress to pass legislation that will continue to ensure equal voting rights for all Americans.

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