WASHINGTON -- Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said he wanted to cry after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last month.
"The day of the Supreme Court decision broke my heart," he said during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. "It made me want to cry. I felt like saying come, come and walk in the shoes of people who tried to register, tried to vote, but did not live to see the passage of the Voting Rights Act."
Lewis served as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights era and was one of the original Freedom Riders. The group encountered violence during their travel in the South, and Lewis was hit on the head with a wooden crate.
Lewis said that the Supreme Court "sent us back to the drawing table" and called on Congress to create a new formula to determine which parts of the country should have changes to their voting laws pre-cleared by the Justice Department or in federal court. The VRA required such clearance.
"In a democracy such as ours, the vote is precious, it is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. Those who sacrificed everything -- their blood and their lives -- and generations yet unborn, are all hoping and praying that Congress will rise to the challenge and get it done again," Lewis said in his prepared remarks.