The Voting Rights Act was signed into law 55 years ago today.
Signed by President Lyndon B Johnson, it's considered one of the most significant civil rights laws in American history. It was designed to ban discriminatory voting practices (think: literacy tests) that disenfranchised racial minorities, especially Black Americans. And it required some states and localities to get federal approval before making any changes in voting rules. Following its passage, Black voter registration in the South went from 35% to 65% in just five years. And for nearly 50 years, the law was highly effective in preventing discrimination against Black voters and helping increase the number of Black elected officials.
Here it comes: But seven years ago, the Supreme Court effectively struck down the law's key enforcement provision – freeing certain states from having to get approval for voting rule changes. The decision was met with backlash from voting rights advocates who said it would lead to a resurgence of voter suppression. And since then, they've been calling evidence of it out. In recent years, lawmakers across the country have introduced voter ID laws, closed polling places, purged voter rolls, restricted felons' voting rights...the list goes on.
Voting rights advocates and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have worked in the past to restore the powers of the VRA. Last year, the House voted to do just that...but the legislation stalled in the Senate. But the fight's garnered renewed attention since the death of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. In his eulogy for the late congressman, former President Barack Obama called on Americans to honor Lewis by revitalizing the VRA – a law he "was willing to die for."
Fifty-five years ago, the US took a historic leap by helping bring equality to Black voters. But in recent years and throughout this presidential election, many have pointed to evidence of voter suppression. And with less than 100 days to Election Day, many are advocating for change to make this democratic right accessible to everyone.
Beirut. Investigators are still looking into what caused the explosion there that killed at least 135 people, injured 5,000 others, and left more than 250,000 homeless. Authorities believe a fire detonated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the port. And investigators are focusing on how or why such a large quantity of highly combustible material was stored at Beirut's port for the past six years. They're looking at potential negligence from the government amid reports that the head of customs had warned the country's judiciary for years that the situation was unsafe. Lebanon's declared a two-week state of emergency and has ordered several port officials to be under house arrest. Several countries (like France, Greece, and Jordan) are sending aid as rescuers search the rubble for the dozens still missing.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). Yesterday, she signed an executive order restoring voting rights to Iowans convicted of felonies. (Some – including those convicted of murder – won't be included.) Iowa was the last state with a lifetime ban on voting for convicted felons. Those who wished to vote had to appeal directly to the governor. But Reynolds said that voting rights should be automatically restored after someone serves their time, "plain and simple." The EO will allow an estimated tens of thousands of Iowans to vote. And won't require felons to pay all of their court fines or fees to get their voting rights back – a requirement that's been a serious point of contention in Florida recently.
Former VP Joe Biden. Yesterday, Democratic Party officials announced Biden won't go to Milwaukee, WI, for the Democratic National Convention. Instead, the DNC will be almost entirely virtual and Biden will give his acceptance speech on August 20 from his home state of Delaware.
...Oh and speaking of virtual conventions, yesterday President Trump said he'd "probably" give his nomination acceptance speech from the White House. But some questioned the legality of hosting political events there.
Reels and TikTok. Yesterday, Instagram launched Reels, a new feature meant to compete with TikTok. Just like the Chinese-owned app – which could soon be banned or sold in the US – Reels will let users belt their hearts out to the "Love Story" challenge. Get your ring (lights) ready.
Skimm’d by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Mariza Smajlaj, Ellen Burke, Niven McCall-Mazza, Clem Robineau, and Julie Shain
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