Under attack: Because we don’t vote Republican

In 2011, Rep. John LewisJohn LewisMerkel named Harvard commencement speaker Dems vow quick action to bolster voting rights upon taking power Dems demand info on law enforcement's use of Amazon facial recognition tool MORE (D-Ga.) set the House floor ablaze with a speech addressing Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows looks to make his move Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus MORE (R-Ohio), and Republican legislatures across the country. He declared that voting rights are under attack in America. We should have listened to him.

In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Sixteen million Americans were purged from voter rolls from 2014 to 2016. Nearly a thousand polling places closed in predominately southern black communities, and 32 Republican state legislatures passed some of the most onerous and discriminatory voter ID laws in this nation’s history.

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As a lead plaintiff in the Veasey v Abbott voting rights case, I fought to overturn Texas’ discriminatory Voter ID laws. Texas has racked up the highest amount of VRA violations in the nation. Only two hours after the Shelby County decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted that the state’s (and the nation’s) strictest voter ID law, would be swiftly re-enacted. The consequences of this decision were devastating for African American and Latino communities across the country.

The GOP’s voter suppression efforts have continued to be well-executed and disenfranchised too many Americans from casting a ballot. That’s where organizations like Let America Vote, Flippable, and When We All Vote come into play. Extreme voter suppression laws that disproportionately impact people based on race, gender, age, income, and sexual orientation have multiplied all over the country.

Voting rights organizations are fighting back against proposals that make it harder for eligible voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Whether it’s extreme identification requirements, questionable purges of voter rolls, or voter intimidation – Republicans know how difficult it is to get certain communities to vote for them, so better they can’t vote at all.

Republicans have put down poor people, minority communities, and those who need government assistance for generations. Democrats are countering the Republican platform, while voting rights organizations are working to register new voters, in preparation for the 2018 midterms.

With red-hot races underway in states across the country, including Texas, the mobilization of activists, including high school graduates is creating a new generation of voters.

But that juncture of activism needs to be met with common-sense policy solutions. That’s why Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — House passes bill to stop drug companies overcharging Medicaid | Incoming Dem chairman open to 'Medicare For All' hearings | Bill to reduce maternal mortality rates passes House Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee House passes bill to keep drug companies from overcharging Medicaid MORE (D-Ore.) and I have received support from voting rights and civil rights organizations across the country to make September National Voting Rights Month. Our Resolution will spark voter registration, encourage Congress to pass legislation so 18-year-olds are automatically registered to vote in Federal elections, and push Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.  

This week, is a national week of action, where state governments, members of Congress, local elected officials, and civic organizations across the country are holding events to encourage Americans to register to vote or update their registrations. From high-school graduates to retired workers, party faithfuls to first time voters, we want everyone engaged, and ready to participate in this sacred democratic process.

Voting ensures our ideals and principled beliefs are represented, in city councils, statehouses and at the highest levels of government. Those who believe in preserving the right to vote must start winning the political argument.

It’s ironic that our elections are the envy of the world, where people across the country host watch parties and post pictures casting ballots. We can’t take it for granted. Why? Because voting is sacred. And in 2018, voting is the only thing that can save us.

Veasey represents the 33rd District of Texas and is the founder and co-chair of the Voting Rights Caucus in Congress.