Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) addresses the importance of voting rights for disadvantaged communities, the fight for inclusion, and equal representation for America’s island territories during this week’s edition of the CBC’s Message to America.
Congresswoman Plaskett explained the fight for equal voting rights did not end with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She told viewers, “There are millions of Americans today whose very Constitutional right to vote is threatened.”
In 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down the provision that allows the Department of Justice “the ability to prevent states with the history of implementing discriminatory rules and other barriers to the ballot to make changes to voting laws without pre-clearance from the Justice Department.”
According to Rep. Plaskett, “Within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision, states were already moving forward with voter ID laws, which had already been rejected as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.”
She added, “Six of the sixteen states that have passed voter ID laws since 2010 have documented history of discrimination against minority voters.”
Not only do we have to fight to restore the Voting Rights Act, Rep. Plaskett said minority voters face “another fight to equal voting rights.”
Plaskett told viewers this battle is currently playing out in the federal judiciary and involves “the fight for inclusion and equal representation for 4 million American citizens who are residents of the Nation’s island territories.”
“The right to vote for these citizens today is marred by a century-old opinion of the Supreme Court which ruled that full Constitutional rights do not automatically extend to all places under America’s jurisdiction,” said Plaskett.
This opinion penned by the same Supreme Court Justice who wrote the separate but equal decision in the Dred Scott Case was recently challenged and struck down by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and is currently being refiled by the United States Supreme Court.
Rep. Plaskett has filed an “Amicus Brief” with the court in support of the challenge to the antiquated opinion that bars America’s island nations from being granted full inclusion and equal representation at the ballot box.
Plaskett reminded viewers that citizens from the current U.S. territories have fought and died in every American war, some of these brave soldiers have been awarded this nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, “but yet these same citizens, who have contributed and sacrificed so much, still cannot vote for their Commander-in-Chief.”
“Aside from the fact that it is a Constitutional right afforded to every American, the right to vote is important because of its implications on the progression of our communities,” Plaskett said. “The inability to vote has a direct correlation to the poverty in many minority communities across this country and also in the island territories and in my home district of the US Virgin Islands.”
Plaskett began to close her address saying, “poverty in the 21st century is a shameful reality in our great nation and for decades it has been a serious and persistent problem in many minority communities,” putting extra emphasis on the “heartbreaking reality” of childhood poverty in our nation.
“Every eligible voter must be allowed to cast his or her ballot unhindered by burdensome rules that seemed designed to deter participation in our democracy,” Plaskett said.
In closing, Congresswoman Plaskett told viewers she will continue to work with the CBC and others “to push for legislation that restores the full power of the Voting Rights Act” and will continue to “fight for the inclusion and equal representation for American citizens living in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the other ancillary territories.”
Watch Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett’s address in the video clip above.
For more information about the Congressional Black Caucus, visit cbc-butterfield.house.gov.