Congress acknowledged this unfortunate but ongoing necessity when it overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 after more than 21 hearings and 15,000 pages of supporting evidence. The act was reauthorized through 2031 with an almost unanimous vote — 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate. Those members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, clearly believed that the hundreds of cases of apparent voter discrimination by states and municipalities necessitated federal oversight and preclearance.
Today, we still face real threats from individuals and institutions that are seeking to suppress voter turnout and deny individuals the right to vote. For some, what should be a routine exercise of citizenship has become a struggle. Without the proper oversight in place, the elderly, the poor and those living in rural communities could all be impacted.
I agree with those that say we have made great progress. We have come a long way since civil rights leaders confronted state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but now is not the time to abandon the safeguards that made progress possible.
Now more than ever we need a strong Voting Rights Act. I seriously question the sustainability of our democracy without it.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.