This week the Congressional Gold Medal, our country's highest civilian honor, was awarded to Rev. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King for their work bringing civil rights to our people. 50 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, this honor is long overdue.
The theme of my Juneteenth fundraiser for African-American Voter REP last week was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. We’ve come so far since 1964. But we need to keep working. The Supreme Court tore away key parts of the Voting Rights Act last year, and several states have rushed into the fray to pass voter suppression laws that will keep their own citizens away from the polls this November and after.
I founded African-American Voter REP back in 2002 to increase African American and urban voter registration, education, and participation in the Los Angeles area. Great organizations around the country do similar work in their own communities, but it's even harder for them when they have to work against their own state and local governments. They are not without support though: the ACLU filed a lawsuit to fight back against the dismantling of early voting in Ohio, and is taking North Carolina to court to stop their restrictive new voter laws as well.
All this piecemeal work in the states is important, but we can't forget about the larger picture. What we need is for Congress to do their jobs and pass an amendment to the Voting Rights Act so that voters of color in this country have their rights protected again. We also need universal online voter registration (like what has been so successful in California, with over a million new voters registered in 2012 alone)! We need universal same day registration on a national level too, for voters who fall between the cracks of the system. California has already passed a law on same day registration, and it should take effect here in 2016.
We can't take for granted the reforms we've achieved here in California, and leave people in other parts of the country behind. That was not Martin Luther King's dream. We do not struggle alone. Together, we shall overcome.