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On 51st Anniversary of Voting Rights Act, a Long Way to Go

Saturday marked the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act being signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This landmark legislation was designed to remove obstacles and restrictions that made it harder for African-Americans to vote.

Fifty-one years later, the fight still continues. Voting rights are under assault from politicians trying to win elections through underhanded, discriminatory tactics. The Supreme Court significantly weakened the VRA in its 2013 Shelby decision, ruling that states with a history of discrimination at the polls did not have to request federal permission to change their voting laws, and now Republican-controlled legislatures are regularly trying to strip away vital portions of the VRA.

July was an encouraging month for voting rights, with judges handing out major victories in six states for the protection and expansion of the right to vote. Courts in Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan and North Dakota struck down restrictions related to voter ID, early voting, pre-registration, and provisional voting. It's a battle that will continue in years to come.

As part of their efforts around the VRA anniversary, about 20 activists, including Roanoke NAACP Chapter President Brenda Hale and members of the NAACP Youth Council, peacefully protested at Rep. Robert Goodlatte's Virginia office, demanding a hearing on restoring the VRA. Goodlatte (R), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has refused to even hold a committee hearing on the need to restore voting rights protections.

NAACP activists, including President Cornell Brooks, held a six-hour-long sit-in at Rep. Goodlatte's office in Virginia.