AUSTIN, Texas — “President Johnson’s eloquence and leadership on voting rights, including passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, continue to be relevant as Texas celebrates Lyndon Baines Johnson Day on Aug. 27,” said League of Women Voters of Texas President, Linda Krefting.
Recent developments require renewed commitment to LBJ’s vision: for all of us — whatever party, region, race or ethnicity or color, gender, religion, background — to accept the duty to ensure that no eligible citizen is denied the right to vote.
In urging passage of the Voting Rights Act, President Johnson told Congress:
“[A]bout this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right (March 15, 1965),”
Human dignity “rests on [the] right to be…equal in opportunity to all others,” to “share in freedom,” and to “choose [your] leaders.” Voting rights are, he said, not a “Negro problem” or a southern or northern problem but an “American problem” that must be solved by Americans together. “I urge every member of both parties — Americans of all religions and of all colors — from every section of this country — to join me in that cause.”
The Voting Rights Act passed by large bipartisan majorities in both chambers and was signed by President Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965. This critical piece of civil rights legislation has been amended and reauthorized since, most recently by large bipartisan majorities in 2006 when it was supported by both Texas Senators and the majority of Texans in the House and signed into law by another Texas President, President George W. Bush.
President Johnson feared “even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over,” a prophecy that has proven true. New legislation imposes barriers to voting by many eligible citizens, and in June the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the VRA defining jurisdictions with histories of voting rights problems that need prior federal approval for election changes.
“We must all join in the cause of insuring elections that are free, fair, and accessible to all eligible voters and accept no reason to excuse denial of the right to vote,” says Krefting. Congressional action to repair and restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is essential.
The League of Women Voters of Texas has educated and agitated for active, informed participation in government for 93+ years and believes no form of participation is more important than voting.