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The 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act has arrived, but those rights President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law in 1965 are threatened.

Unfettered access to vote is one of the most basic and cherished freedoms in America. Ensuring free and fair access to the voting booth for all Americans is a vital component of our democracy. We need voting rights reform to guarantee full access to the ballot box. 

In 2013, B’nai B’rith spoke out against the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder, which eliminated the requirement that nine states and numerous counties must seek federal approval before changing their election laws. 

At the time, we expressed deep concern that the ruling could pave the way for state and local efforts to suppress voting by minorities. We noted then that it was time for Congress to act again to extend the requirement that these states and localities get pre-approval to change their voting laws. 

In June Congress began to push ahead on a bill that would restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed 50 years ago and has been weakened by several federal court decisions over the years.  

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would enact new voting protections and expanded federal oversight of voting rules, updating key protections against voting rights discrimination to respond to current challenges.

The 50th anniversary of the original Voting Rights Act presents a historic opportunity to honor the advances won by the civil rights movement a half century ago by passing legislation in our own time that ensures the hard-fought gains they achieved will not continue to erode. 

B’nai B’rith urges both parties and both chambers to work together to pass a measure restoring voting protections for all Americans.