It has been more than 50 years since my friend, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., articulated the dream of a generation. Since then, this nation has made great strides toward the ideal of equality under the law. Nowhere has this progress been more dramatic than in the arena of voting rights.
When voting rights are still endangered, it is crucial to make participation in our democracy more widespread.
Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives John Conyers, Jr.
The right to vote is undoubtedly one of the most fundamental pillars of our democracy. However, it has also been subject to a variety of restrictions to manipulate the democratic process. From blatantly discriminatory laws that blocked this right from women and African-Americans, to modern-day voter suppression tactics -- the right to vote has often come under siege.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 heralded a new era of political opportunity for African-Americans not seen since Reconstruction. But the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision struck at its heart by suspending the Section 5 pre-clearance which has allowed states to enact a series of voter suppression schemes that disenfranchise voters. Make no mistake, the fight for equal voting rights is ongoing.
In addition to those challenges, in far too many communities and across the political spectrum, voting has been dismissed as a pointless exercise. Some may be too busy; afraid or completely unable to leave work to spend hours at a polling place to cast their vote. Our greatest civic responsibility has even been featured as comic fodder.
The cost of low voter participation for our democracy cannot be measured in financial terms.
That is why I introduced legislation to make Election Day a national holiday. Though some might dismiss an Election Day holiday as being too expensive for our government to afford, the damage caused by low voter participation is a far greater risk.
Everyone deserves an opportunity to have their voice heard by electing the leaders of their choice. Setting aside a day devoted to voting makes the process not only more convenient, but fairer for American citizens and can be the first step in rebuilding and enhancing the image of civic participation.