On this day, 145 years ago, the 14th Amendment became the law of the land — addressing citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws. And while it was was far from perfect, the amendment was the first step in making it illegal to deny the right to vote based on race.
The 14th amendment had big implications. It ignited the suffrage movement, ended segregation in our schools through Brown vs. Board of Education and provided the justification for Reynolds v. Sims — the landmark Supreme Court decision that established voting as a fundamental right. As the court explained, "The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government."
But even with these amendments and rulings, there was and still is voter discrimination and disenfranchisement. Poll taxes, literacy requirements and most recently voter ID laws — These are all tactics that have been deployed to restrict voting rights to certain populations. And some states have a stronger history than others. I know. I saw it first-hand as a little girl growing up in Louisiana.
That's why the Voting Rights Act is so important. It made real the promises of the 14th Amendment and held states accountable for acts of voter suppression by requiring federal approval of any measures that could limit and restrict voting rights. But sadly, the Supreme Court's recent ruling dismantled a key provision of the law. But what's worse is the speed at which Republicans are moving to pass restrictive voting laws in the aftermath of the decision.
These actions aren't just bad for the constituents they represent, they directly violate the principles our country was founded on and are a slap in the face to anyone who's ever fought for voting rights.
As we commemorate the implementation of the 14th amendment today, let's take a minute and remember its intention — to expand access to voting to EVERY American. Let's fix the Voting Rights Act and stop voter suppression wherever it exists.