NAACP Statement on the 51st Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Baltimore, MD – NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks issued the following statement marking the 51st anniversary and first presidential election without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Today, on this fifty-first anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we celebrate the heroic efforts of those who marched, fought, and even died in pursuit of their constitutional rights. This day also reminds us that the battle is not nearly over and that voter suppression remains a very real injustice in America. We must continue to claim our right to the ballot, and we must also speak out for another set of victims that our forbearers might not have imagined: our youth.

“This June, we observed the third anniversary of an infamous rather than famous legal milestone: Shelby County v. Holder. This 2013 Supreme Court decision disastrously undermined the Voting Rights Act’s protections against racial discrimination and opened up a floodgate of voter suppression. Now, instead of celebrating a half-century of equitable enfranchisement, we are about to face the harshest consequences of its absence. We are ninety-three days away from the first presidential election in fifty years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.

“Court victories in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, North Dakota, and Wisconsin give us occasion to hope that restoration in time for November’s election is achievable. In nearly every state, the NAACP took a leading role, fighting in the courts and in the community, on the briefs and on the streets. At our urging and advocacy, at least one political party has placed voting rights in their platform’s preamble.

“We will only be able to achieve true recovery of the VRA, however, if we also address the infringements on the rights of young voters. While we have battled the racially discriminatory intent behind the laws enacted in the wake of Shelby, we have mostly ignored the precision with which they target young voters. The widespread shutting down of polling places on college campuses and the denial of school IDs as appropriate voter identification are not coincidences. These are deliberate, dangerous assaults on young voters. Millennials are our most energized, most tolerant citizens, and we cannot afford to lose their trust in the efficacy of our democratic system. Casting a vote is a civically subversive act – one befitting the grassroots energy of this “woke” generation. We must stopping teaching our young people that their voices do not matter and that their votes do not count.

“With the recent voting rights victories, we are on our way to fostering a multi-ethnic, multi-generational electorate. But the change has been incremental and hard-won, and we must not get complacent. As part of our Fighting for Democracy initiative, the NAACP and its two thousand local units are fully engaged in a national campaign to end voter suppression and get out the vote. However, our efforts will be for naught if all of us – young and old, black and white – do not show up to the ballot box on November 8.”