Austin celebrates 50th Anniversary of LBJ's Voting Rights Act

It has been 50 years since The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Thursday, Austin became the focus of the historic legislation.

1965 may be 50 years ago, but to Luci Baines Johnson, she remembers it like it was yesterday. She stood behind her dad as he signed The Voting Rights Act. 

“Out of that painful march from Selma to Montgomery came this joyous day,” said Johnson.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary, dozens gathered at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library to reflect on past struggles and discuss future solutions.

“Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skin, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact,” said Johnson.

93-year-old Susie-Sansom-Piper remembers how hard it once was for her to cast her vote.

“We had to pay $1.75 just to get a little piece of paper so we can go and vote,” said Piper.

With a population of more than 90 million people, the millennial generation has a chance to have a strong influence on elections. This is why former Senator Joe Christie unveiled a new text to register program.

“We'll see if this dramatically improves registration and turnout,” said Christie.

Vivian Rowe has been volunteering with the Travis County Tax Office for two years. She hopes the text program can make it easier for those who want their voices to be heard.

“Most grandparents don't have a smart phone so this is a good endeavor to try and reach the people who don't,” said Rowe.

Johnson spoke on the 5th Circuit Court's decision that the voter I.D. law violates The Voting Rights Act. She talked about the moment she spoke with her friend about voting laws.

"You're afraid of voter I.D. laws? Everybody has a driver's license." I told him, not people who live in urban arenas with never having the hope of even driving or didn't have the money or gas to make it operate, not people who live in isolation,” said Johnson.

It was a long journey to the 1965 law, but leaders say we still have a ways to go to protect democracy.

“Where there's bigotry for some there is pain for all,” said Johnson.

In light of the anniversary, Travis County is beginning The Great Travis County Voter Registration Challenge. It's an initiative to register 90 percent of eligible voters who live in the county.


 

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