This Thursday, Congress has the chance to fulfill its promise to renew the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Warning: the following will look like a typical Washington cliché, but it isn't.  The Voting Rights Act is as important to a healthy and accountable democracy as any other act in United States history.  It is impossible to overstate its importance.

There are some members of Congress who say that the need has passed for protecting the rights of U.S. citizens to directly participate in the democratic process.  They ignore the fact that the VRA was upheld last month by the Supreme Court, and that the VRA reversed a case of electoral discrimination in Kilmichael, Mississippi only 3 years ago.

There are still other members who say the VRA discourages immigrants from learning English.  This argument not only completely ignores the fact that immigrants are eager to learn English so they can succeed - look at the 3-year waiting lists for ESL classes in places across the country - but it is also completely irrelevant to the VRA.  The VRA is about protecting the rights of U.S. citizens to vote - it is not about immigration.

The VRA has been tremendously successful in enfranchising millions of U.S. citizens.  We all wish it wasn't necessary anymore, but that's not the case.  Let's renew the VRA without destructive amendments and be a model for democracy around the world.