It often takes a federal initiative to correct state shortcomings. In Oklahoma, we've witnessed the national government's influence on child welfare, corrections and county government to name a few affected entities.

The Voting Rights Act, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, empowered the national government to register those whom many states refused to put on the voting list. It is generally considered the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by Congress.

"Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote," President Lyndon Johnson said in a 1965 speech following passage of the act. "Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes? This bill will strike down restrictions to voting in all elections ? federal, state, and local ? which have been used to deny Negroes the right to vote."

Parts of the original legislation, aimed at African Americans, come up for renewal in 2007. It was extended in 1970, 1975 and 1982 and Congress is beginning to start the dialogue toward reauthorization.

While African American registration has achieved parity with whites in most areas, the act should be studied and expanded to include others disenfranchised from the political process in many areas of the country.

Let the dialogue begin.

This Week's Circulars