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Philly marks 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act

Mayor Michael Nutter and others celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the federal Voting Rights Act in the mayor’s reception room with a proclamation. He noted voting rights were being challenged in several states with restrictive voter registration laws and in many communities voter turn-out remains at an all-time low.

“The city of Philadelphia is the revered birthplace of America’s freedom,” Nutter said. “The Committee of Seventy partners with the Urban League of Philadelphia to observe the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Therefore I do hereby proclaim Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 to be Voting Rights Act Day in Philadelphia an urge all citizens to be aware of the continued importance of the VRA as it undergoes new challenges to its fundamental components.”

U.S. Rep Robert Brady (D-Pa.) a ranking member on the Committee on House Administration, said the work of securing and protecting the right to vote for all Americans is not over.

“While we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and recognize that it was one of the most important civil rights achievements in the history of our nation we must pause because our work is not done,” Brady said. “In the midst of our anniversary recognition we must continue to work to restore the protections from the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. Proudly I am working with other House Democrats to advance legislation that would restore its full protections so that the victories of the Civil Rights Movement can continue to stand for our generation and generations to come.”

Also of significance is that Congress has yet to take any action against the U.S. Supreme Court decision that critics called a major setback to democracy. In 2013, the Supreme Court voted in a 5-to-4 ruling to invalidate a major provision of the VRA.

State Sens. Vincent Hughes and Art Haywood joined election advocates from across Philadelphia to call for a new era of voting rights for Pennsylvanians. They also called on Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in a manner that complies with U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Hughes has introduced Senate Bill 806. It would automatically register an eligible voter whenever they interact with government agencies, said Hughes’s spokesman Ben Waxman. The bill’s number, 806, also commemorates the Aug. 6 signing of the Voting Rights Act.

“I am proud to have introduced this bill on the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the federal Voting Rights Act,” Hughes said. “Any individual who applies for employment with a government agency, applies for a state license or permit, applies for a state program, or public benefits, or applies for admission to a state-owned or state-related university will automatically be registered to vote based on information included in the application.”

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