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The struggle to "form a more perfect union"

One hundred years ago this week, our nation completed the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

But it's not that simple, is it?

In practice, the right to vote was abridged and denied to Black women in the South and to indigenous women in the West long after 1920. Literacy tests, poll taxes, wealth tests, and more were used to systematically prevent American citizens from exercising their right to vote.

The 1964 ratification of the 24th Amendment abolishing poll taxes and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were critical steps toward ensuring a reliable right to vote for all, as were dozens of other laws and court decisions along the way.

And we're still not done.

The suffragettes who won the passage of the 19th Amendment showed the power of perseverance and principle. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention kicked off decades of activism for women's right to vote. Thirty years later, in 1878, the first Constitutional amendment was introduced. Four decades later, Congress passed it and ratification of the 19th Amendment was underway.

As we commemorate this milestone, and celebrate the nomination of Kamala Harris to become our first woman vice president, let’s not just honor the legacy of these pioneers. Let us continue their fight.

We must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to restore the Voting Rights Act to its full strength.

We must make it easier to register to vote, including automatic voter registration of every citizen.

We must overturn Citizens United and end the scourge of unaccountable and secret corporate cash flooding our elections, drowning out the voice of everyday citizens.

We must end partisan gerrymandering nationwide, so citizens choose their representatives instead of politicians choosing their voters.

We must ensure that every American has the right to vote by mail, so that they do not have to choose between their vote and their health, or choose between their vote and their job.

We must ensure that all American citizens, including those living in DC, Puerto Rico and the territories have full representation in Congress.

And so much more.

So this week, as we tip our hats to the women who fought so bravely a century ago to pass the 19th Amendment, let's take a deep breath and steel ourselves for the fights to come. We've got work to do.


Posted on August 18, 2020.

Born in the small town of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, Jeff Merkley has never lost touch with his working class roots.

As a U.S. Senator, he works every day to create opportunity for working families, stop the corruption of our democracy, and tackle the climate crisis.

A workhorse and a progressive champion, Jeff Merkley is leading a movement to get our country back on track.

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