Keep on pushing forward

The 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 95th anniversary of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote coincided this month. As members of the Los Medanos College community, these landmark events have shaped our entire world perspective. While we cannot forget what got us to this place of inclusiveness that gives most people the right to vote the statistics say otherwise.

Only 24.6 percent of eligible voters voted in the recent 2014 elections, and of those eligible voters ages 18-24 only made 8.2 percent of the voters. Meaning if you are 18 -20, you are more likely to get arrested then to vote in an election.

The blood, sweat and tears shed should never be forgotten or taken for granted. It’s well known that Dr. King and the marchers in Selma, Alabama in 1965 on ‘Bloody Sunday’ put themselves in danger so that today we all could have the right to vote. Woman’s suffrage had been fought for since before the American Revolution and the right to vote for women goes hand in hand with issue such as contraception and education that women have both shaped and played and major role in for this country, these are also being revisited by repulblicans.

So why does the right to vote that is historically backed by the arguably two of the most landmark decisions in U.S. civil rights history also coincide with ,a largely republican backed,  2013 bill that some see as regressive? It retraces a vital part to the original Voting Rights Act.

The 2013 revision to the VRA has taken away the required preclearance for states with an racist past, such as Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. It also took away provisions that barred discriminatory voting laws from polluting the much fought for act. That along with new laws passed by Republican states that are ending integral voting pathways like early voting, last Sunday for the election voting, same day voting in some cases and new strict photo ID laws where passed before the ink had even dried on the 2013 VRA change.

Our country has a scary past and it’s imperative to remember this not only for our collective moral conscious, but also for any hopes we have in progressing. It’s frightening to think our delicate, still infant equilibrium we created with the VRA is being tampered with to say the least.

Americans pride themselves on a foundation based on freedom and equal rights but we still have issues, and as MLK Jr. said,  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

If that is the motto we live by, then surely the number of voter restriction laws being passed in historically racist states over the past two years should be cause for alarm.

In truth the only impact these new restrictive laws do is bar minorities, disabled individuals, those who live in rural areas, students, and the poor from being able to vote the way that they know how to. A lot of black churches go out to vote on the Sunday before Election Day, new laws restrict 16 and 17 years from preregistering to vote. Yet it’s not surprising that the individuals that are being restricted the most usually vote for democrats.

So what does this mean looking forward? Now more than ever before we have to realize the importance of voting. Our rights aren’t stagnant, they can be fluid and if you don’t want to see your right to vote become conditional to multiple restrictions then register to vote and contribute to this country’s political process. What’s even more important though is gathering a fair assessment from the American people as to how they want to be governed.