Bill Clinton has written an essay to mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

“The right to vote is both fundamental to individual liberty and to the proper functioning of representative democracy,” he wrote in the Yale Law & Policy Review. "When voting rights are denied, diluted, or restricted, the ability of government to respond to our challenges and increase our opportunities is impaired, and its legitimacy in doing so is diminished.

“A major theme of American history is the steady expansion of the right to vote. Once restricted to white male property owners, the franchise has been extended to include all citizens from their eighteenth birthday on. Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to end practices like literacy tests that made it more difficult for African Americans to vote.

“The Voting Rights Act was the result of years of struggle, paid for with the blood, sweat, and tears of Americans black and white, young and old.

“America’s tremendous diversity can make us the world’s leading force for peace and prosperity for generations to come. But in order to give our children and grandchildren the future they deserve, we must remove barriers to participation and opportunity, not erect them. As a nation, we owe it to the many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement who made our past progress possible, and to all those whose future progress depends on it.”

To read Clinton’s full essay, click here.

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