Last week marked the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This landmark legislation was the result of years of personal sacrifice by brave Americans, including Civil Rights icons Congressman John Lewis and activist Amelia Boynton Robinson. These heroes risked their lives to make sure communities of color could exercise their right to participate in the American political process.
While progress has been made in the five decades since the VRA was signed into law, we must address the very real threats facing the voting rights of minority communities today.
In 1983 when I ran for mayor of the city of Philadelphia, it was the voter registration campaign that enabled me to register more than 100,000 new voters and defeat Frank Rizzo, the former police commissioner and two-term mayor. It can be done again in this election.
Voter ID laws and carefully gerrymandered districts designed to disenfranchise people of color are frequently signed into law across the country and make it harder for voters to have a say in their future. Here in Pennsylvania, as recently as 2012, right-wing state legislators passed a voter ID bill that would have needlessly made it harder for thousands of Pennsylvanians, most of them Black and Hispanic, to vote.