Today, on the 51st anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-Chair Sharon Day released a statement:
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a monumental step forward in ensuring equal rights for every American, and today we honor not just that legislation, but also those who devoted themselves to its passage and sacrificed to see it become law. Guaranteeing the right of every American to vote is a staple of our democracy, and the Republican Party, just as it did in 1965, remains committed to ensuring access and fairness at the ballot box. Through Republican efforts, Americans now have increased voting opportunities through absentee balloting and early voting measures, and as we remember this day in American history, we stand firm in protecting future generations’ right to vote.”
“As the Party of opportunity and fairness, we honor that day in 1965 when barriers of prejudice gave way to civic justice,” said RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day. “Today we pay tribute those leaders who courageously fought to give millions of Americans a voice at the polls, and declare once again our Party’s mission of defending the constitutional rights of every American.”
That sounds mighty good.
But what, in fact, has the GOP been doing to honor the VRA over the past 20 years? Passing laws like those in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, and elsewhere that federal courts have ruled make it harder to vote for the young, the elderly, the poor and people of color. Purging alleged felons from the Florida voter rolls based on the flawed information kept thousands of eligible citizens from voting, most of them people of color. Demanding birth certificates or other proof of citizenship for voter registration has led to tens of thousands of applications in Kansas being tossed as incomplete.
And, when it comes to the VRA itself, eviscerated by the Supreme Court three summers ago, Republicans have stubbornly refused to repair the damage. Thus, states (and lower jurisdictions) once required by that act to have changes in their voting laws pre-approved by the federal government no longer must do so. They have since the Court ruling been passing laws that intentionally hurt classes of people previously protected by the VRA.
While most congressional Republicans voted for the VRA 51 years ago, party stalwarts have been hard at work in the current century undermining the GOP’s alleged record of “opportunity and fairness” in the voting realm, some of them getting caught frankly admitting that their suppression efforts will benefit Republicans at the polls on election day.
Next time party leaders make claims like those Priebus and Day issued today, they should accompany them with an express delivery of barf bags.