As we gather with friends and family to celebrate the birthday of our great country, we must recommit ourselves to the ideals of that "more perfect union" and work to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

The bedrock of that union is the right to vote -- a right won from a king in 1783, won by suffragettes in 1920 and won by civil rights activists five decades ago. Today, that right has come under attack.

These attacks are no longer the Jim Crow laws or poll taxes that I vividly remember from my youth. Rather they are restrictions on same-day voter registration, racially and economically motivated voter ID laws and long lines at polling locations designed to frustrate voters.

We cannot allow these attacks to be successful.

A little over a year ago, the Supreme Court undermined the most effective civil rights legislation ever enacted by Congress in its Shelby County v Holder decision. The court gutted the heart of the law, Section 5, which ensures all Americans have access to the ballot box and prevents discrimination before it occurs.

As a result, there is no mechanism to catch voter discrimination before it happens, only after it has occurred. This denies Americans a voice in our government.

We cannot allow this to stand. This is why I am working with my colleagues to support and pass the Voting Rights Act Amendment (HR 3899), which protects the right to vote for all Americans.


Advertisement

This summer, we remember the Freedom Summer of 1964 and the sacrifice of those who fought, bled and died to ensure that every American has the right to vote.

Today, the fight to protect the vote continues. It has moved from the streets of Neshoba County to the halls of Congress. To honor their courage, we must, as a nation, stand united for our most fundamental democratic right -- the right to vote.

As a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and an executive committee member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I continue to work with my colleagues to protect the voting rights of all Americans, regardless of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

We cannot let those who would undermine the bedrock of our democracy prevail.

Instead, we must maintain Congress' bipartisan commitment to the Voting Rights Act that has spanned nearly five decades. Congress has already reauthorized the Voting Rights Act four times, most recently in 2006.

In 2006, I was proud to cast my voice, along with my Republican and Democratic colleagues, to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. The measure passed 390-33 after 21 congressional hearings, testimony from more than 90 witnesses and more than 15,000 pages of evidence.

It was not easy to get everyone on board but we worked hard and achieved our goal. We must do this again with the Voting Rights Act Amendment that Republicans have refused to even consider.

At a moment like this, I am reminded of the powerful words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., "the time is always right to do the right thing."

While the Voting Rights Act Amendment is not a perfect bill, it is an important step that we can take today to protect the voting rights of all Americans.

An attack on the voting rights of one American is an attack on the voting rights of all Americans. We should celebrate this Independence Day by recommitting to the fight on behalf of all Americans.

Rep. Barbara Lee is a member of Congress representing the East Bay's 13th Congressional District.