House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) makes remarks as fellow Democratic leaders including (L-R) Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC) gather on the House steps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, at the U.S. Capitol, July 30, 2015, in Washington, DC. The Democratic leaders called on Republicans to allow a vote on a renewed Act since the Supreme Court decision to dismantle some provisions of the Act. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, July 30 (UPI) -- Democrats gathered on the steps of Congress in Washington D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, as they called on Republicans to restore a key mandate.
"It was not this warm on March 7, 1965, when we attempted to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery," House Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said Thursday, referring to the historic "Bloody Sunday" Civil Rights march.
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before changing voting procedures.
Lewis and other Congressional Democrats, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged Republicans to introduce a bill to the floor to restore the section of the act.
The Shelby v. Holder decision declared that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional, effectively eliminating Section 5 of the act.
Several of the mostly southern states that were held to those restrictions immediately made changes to their voting practices, including limiting early voting and passing voter ID laws, moves civil rights advocates say disproportionately affect minority voters.
"The vote is precious. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool that we have at our disposal," Lewis added. "If we can get it right, maybe, just maybe here in America our system could serve as a model for the rest of the world."