Pelosi Praises Voting Rights Advocates, Calls for Strong Protections

House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today called for the Voting Rights Act to be restored and reminded voters of the sacrifices made by those who fought to win the right to vote for women and minorities.

At an event at San Francisco’s City Hall celebrating Women’s Equality Day, the 85th anniversary of the day U.S. women won the right to vote, and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965, Pelosi said those accomplishments are threatened by those working to erode the right to vote.

“When women won the right to vote, the headlines of the day said ‘Women Given the Right to Vote,'” Pelosi said. “But that isn’t true.”

Women fought and struggled and sacrificed for the right to vote, defying their husbands and society, she said.

“This is a precious privilege and right and we must honor those who gave it to us,” Pelosi said.

The Voting Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, prohibited literacy tests, poll taxes and other practices that prevented black Americans from voting.

It was weakened by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting the federal government’s power to prevent states from passing new laws restricting voting. Pelosi today called on Congress to pass legislation restoring the law’s strength.

Protesters paved the way for the act with a series of voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and were notoriously beaten and tear gassed by law enforcement on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“They made big sacrifices so that people could have the right to vote,” Pelosi said.

Speaking at the same event today, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said that too many states are passing bills making it harder to vote, including voter identification laws, overaggressive pruning of the voter rolls and limiting access to the polls.

In California, he said, legislation is pending that would make voting easier by making registration automatic through the DMV and by making it easier for voters to vote early and at locations other than their local polling place.

“We want to make it easier for people to be registered and easier to vote,” Padilla said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also spoke at the event, praising San Francisco’s strong legislative delegation, which is led by women, and the city’s record of employing and promoting women.

“Equality for all has always been a San Francisco value and always will be,” Lee said.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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