LatinaLista — On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) signed into law the Voting Rights Act. When LBJ signed it, he thought he was paving the way clear of challenges for voters of color to be able to feel like full citizens by getting the right to vote, without hassles.
In fact, in his State of the Union Address in 1965, President Johnson said he would “eliminate every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to vote.”
If only it had worked out that way.
Who could have foreseen that one party would have made such negligent inroads among voters of color that the only tactic they could devise that ensured their opponents didn’t get too many of the votes from the people they’ve historically ignored was to create history themselves by purging voting rolls and legislating Voter ID laws.
Their strategy is so blatant that it has triggered calls of alarm to halt the practices.
The latest call to action about Voter’s Rights is by former mayor, congressman and ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew J. Young. Ambassador Young has joined together with Martin Luther King III in creating a grassroots campaign for a new voting rights act to be enacted, dubbed VRA 2.0.
Ambassador Young, doesn’t want to make the current debate over Voters’ Rights about race, but he does want Congress to do away with voting provisions that are making it more difficult not only for voters of color to turn out and vote but also for the elderly, the poor and the youth.
In an open letter to Americans, Ambassador Young calls on Congress to do something to help voters exercise their right to vote and he calls on the American public to put aside their apathy and exercise that privilege.
From The Desk of Ambassador Andrew J. Young
August 6, 2012
My Dear Fellow American,
Forty-seven years ago today, my friend, Dr. Martin Luther King stood beside President Johnson as he signed the Voting Rights Act and proclaimed that America had “once and for all opened the doors to the polling places…and the wondrous rewards which await the wise use of the ballot.” On that day, partisanship took a back seat to citizenship, as a moral effort of historic proportion led to legislation, which we all believed would give all Americans unfettered access to what President Johnson called “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man.”
Sadly, today we confront the shameful reality that forty-seven years later, voter turnout in American ranks 139th out of 172 democracies around the globe and dead last amongst the G8. Another horrifying reality is that this presidential election cycle will be the most expensive and excessive in world history, as billions of dollars will be deployed through conventional donations and non-transparent Super PACs.
With the tidal wave of money being spent by candidates and their Super PACs on negative ads, apathy among citizens is growing as the average person no longer believes his or her vote really matters. Ironically, not one ad talks about how to upgrade our antiquated voting system even though both presidential candidates and so many others acknowledge…that the system is broken.
When asked in 1965 why it took America so long to make the voting booth accessible to all Americans, Martin said it was due to the silence of good people. Sadly, that silence has once again become deafening as the ever-growing barriers to the ballot box in America is a global embarrassment.
So I call upon all of you today to join me in a new march on Washington; a march that will serve to end the silence of good people by putting voice back into an upgraded Voting Rights Act, what I call “VRA 2.0” to remove unreasonable barriers to voting and to make voting more accessible to all; a march that will remind everyone that when great men of courage of commitment put the moral issues of society ahead of the political issues of party, America can once again be the beautiful beacon of democracy that it always was.
God bless you,