On the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, offers her perspective on what voting means to her.  

“Since the passing of civil rights pioneer and American hero Rep. John Lewis, the calls for the reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act have grown louder. The 1965 legislation was far from perfect but had a tremendous impact on expanding voting rights before it was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. This is a wonderful sentiment, but it’s not nearly enough.

“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades.

“Voter suppression is still thriving in our country. The primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas offer recent examples of excessively long lines, closing of multiple poll sites, and the use of voter ID laws that directly suppress the Black and Brown vote. The fight for free and fair access to the ballot should be every American’s cause regardless of party affiliation.

“As a daughter of Selma, a lifelong organizer and the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, I believe it’s time to reimagine American democracy. The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced we need a federal agency, at the cabinet level just like the Department of Defense. A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.

“On the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we should recognize the power of this moment and take a quantum leap forward. Let’s honor the legacy of John Lewis, and the many more advocates, including those unsung Black women suffragists who envisioned a future closer to the ideals of democracy than their time allowed them to realize. The time is now.”

LaTosha Brown is a co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, an organization dedicated to expanding Black voter engagement and increasing progressive power through movement-building. LaTosha is one of several prominent Black female leaders and activists who launched a recent campaign for a Black woman VP. She was also recently selected as the 2020-2021 American Democracy Fellow at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.