Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act this week, President Barack Obama called for legislators to halt practices that affect voter registration and discriminate minority voters.
Calling the 1965 Act “one of our nation’s most influential pieces of legislation,” Obama described the history and struggles of African-Americans during that time to receive the right to vote.
“Roughly 600 people stood on the right side of history that day — armed only with their faith, and the conviction that we could do better,” Obama wrote in Medium magazine. “They were willing to sacrifice their own bodies in order to help bring America closer to its ideals of equality and justice for all.”
He admitted that “there are still too many barriers to the vote, and too many people trying to erect new barriers to the vote,” in 2015. “They’ve even written into the code of law in some parts of our country — provisions specifically designed to make it harder for some people to vote.”
Obama’s comments refer to states such as Texas and Wisconsin, where voter ID laws have made national headlines this year. On Aug. 5, an appeals court ruled against the ID laws of Texas initially established by former Republican governor and 2016 presidential candidate Rick Perry. Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also signed in less restrictive voting rights laws, which have been upheld by several different appeals courts throughout the state, The Hill noted.
The president has used some of the same rhetoric to discuss voter rights in the past. During an appearance in Selma, Alabama, in March, Obama called the act “one of the crowning achievements of our democracy,” but said that the law “stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor,” USA Today noted.
Just two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a longstanding portion of the act, which stated that states with past racial discrimination would need approval from the U.S. Justice Department before changing their voting laws. On Aug. 4, White House press secretary Josh Earnest explained the president’s point of view on the law’s changes.
“The President has been concerned, and even dismayed, by the significant amount of energy and effort that’s been expended almost exclusively by Republicans to make it more difficult for eligible citizens to cast a ballot. And this is what motivates the president’s view of this policy, and that’s why the president is marking the 50th anniversary of this historic piece of legislation,” Earnest said.
Later on Aug. 6, the president was expected to call on members of Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and push Americans to get registered to vote.
You can read the president’s full op-ed here.