Even 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed on Aug. 6 1965, there are still barriers standing in the way of minority and immigrant-voters everywhere. In an effort to overcome voting discrimination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists inspired a movement that forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the […]
Even 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed on Aug. 6 1965, there are still barriers standing in the way of minority and immigrant-voters everywhere.
In an effort to overcome voting discrimination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists inspired a movement that forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act into law during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.
“I remember when it passed. No black person was allowed to go to any place to vote,” Jesse Camps, 76, said. “Things got better, but there’s still a lot of racism going. We need to press our younger generation.”
Voting is the most basic right of American citizenship, and yet many people are robbed of that voice thanks to laws which disenfranchise them.
“In our democracy, we should be celebrating our right to vote and lowering obstacles to do so,” Rep. Donna F. Edwards D-MD said. “Instead, we are seeing unnecessary voter ID laws, cuts to early voting periods and same-day registration being passed in states throughout the country.”
Recognizing the barriers that still restrict people in this country and defying them is just one tactic University of Maryland’s NAACP President, Ceaira Thomas, finds most effective.
“Minorities have a history of not being represented,” said Thomas, “Unless we are able to vote it will keep happening because voting is a huge factor in change.”
The fight Dr. King and so many other courageous people fought years ago will go unresolved until more people take a stand against laws meant to prevent people from voting based on their race and ethnicity.
We Are Casa, an organization known for its strides towards the expansion of opportunities for Latino and immigrants in the state of Maryland, wants to get communities of color more involved in voting.
“Obviously the Voter Rights Act of 1965 allowed for communities of color to be a part of the democratic process,” Advocacy and Elections Specialist, Yaheiry Mora, said.
Which is why Casa in Action, the sister organization to We Are Casa, works towards engaging voters and assisting them in exercising their rights.
“We plan to volunteer with our members in neighborhoods where they’ll talk to voters about voting and the election,” Mora said, “They need to own their percent.”
Casa’s ‘Vote Maryland’ in 2012 was one of their biggest voter engagement initiatives, where they helped register over 3,000 new voters in Maryland.
Senator Ben Cardin, D-MD, said the Voting Rights Act of 1965 wiped away numerous laws that denied African Americans and other minorities to vote like poll taxes, literacy and history tests. But Cardin says he is still concerned for areas throughout the country where the legacy of Jim Crow laws lives on.
According to a statement from Vice President Joe Biden, “The legacy of the Voting Rights Act is not fulfilled until we break down the barriers designed to silence our fellow citizens.”
One way Thomas tries to help people get out and vote is by signing people up to vote.
“We hold Voter Drives throughout every voting season on campus and throughout the community.” Thomas said. “And I’ll tell people, ‘Fill it out and we’ll send it in’.”
People of color often convince themselves their votes do not make a difference, but it does make a big difference when they do, according to Camps.
“It’s a whole lot better now, and I refuse to go back to the 50’s.”