Rep. Foster's Statement On The Voting Rights Act
Like many, I was deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling last month in Shelby County v. Holder. By invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the Court did great damage to an act that was, along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the greatest legislative achievements of the civil rights era. My colleague, the Honorable John Lewis, said in a statement following the decision that the Court had “stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act…”
The federal oversight created by the Voting Rights Act has helped raise minority voter turnout from the single digit levels in many districts over the last half century. Without the protections offered by the Voting Rights Act, minority voters in the covered areas will continue to face obstacles to ensuring their right to vote.
When Congress last reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it did so by overwhelming margins: 390 to 33 in the House of Representatives and unanimously in the Senate. Congress must act quickly and decisively as it has in the past.
Historically, Illinois has played an important role in supporting the Voting Rights Act. When the Voting Rights Act was first passed, it was Illinois Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen who notably lent his influence to ensure passage.
When President Reagan signed into law the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 1982, he declared that the right vote is “the crown jewel of American liberties.” That has not changed and should never change. Ensuring that all eligible Americans are able to exercise their right to vote is critical to protecting the integrity of our Democracy.
Fifty years ago my family stood alongside thousands of others in the fight for civil rights. We have made great strides since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but our work is far from over. I am proud to continue my family’s long tradition of fighting for civil rights in this country as a Member of Congress and will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to restore these important protections.