On Aug. 6 we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of a historic bill: the Voting Rights Act. It took years of struggle and sacrifice by the African American people, along with thousands of other democratic-minded people, many of them active in the labor and civil rights movements of that time.

Key provisions of this landmark legislation expire in 2007, and a mass renewal campaign has been launched. While some Republicans have given lip service to it, the Bush administration — the most hostile ever to civil rights and voting rights — is mum. Civil rights leaders are wise to begin the campaign now. It will take a conscious, militant struggle to win.

This administration got its start trampling voting rights. Its thugs shut down the Florida vote count during the 2000 presidential elections. Their jackbooted footprints left their mark in the Supreme Court’s infamous ‘American coup’ decision installing Bush as president. Racist vote suppression marred the 2004 elections as well.

And who was whispering advice to Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 as he prepared to “constitutionally” overthrow voting rights through the Supreme Court? None other than George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee — John Roberts.

Roberts “consulted” with the governor for only 30 minutes, according to the Bush camp. But those minutes spoke volumes. Roberts was the GOP legal gun, the “company man.” He had a job to do — subvert voting rights through legal arguments.

Newly released documents show that Roberts wasn’t just a Reagan deputy counsel, but part of the drive to push the country to the right. If anything, he was more reactionary than the Reagan administration.

He worked to strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over cases that would protect abortion, civil rights and church-state separation. He opposed affirmative action, writing that it “required the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates.” He sought to limit enforcement of Title IX, which bars gender discrimination in universities.

The facts seeping out are revealing Roberts as an ultra-right ideologue opposed to the democratic rights that the Supreme Court should uphold. Defeating the Roberts nomination is part of the struggle to renew the Voting Rights Act and defend democracy.