Here They Go Again
"The power of the ballot we need in sheer defense, else what shall save us second slavery?" —W.E.B. Du Bois
he right wing, including outright racists, is once again seeking the aid and support of the U.S. Supreme Court to attack Section 5 of the Voting Rights
Act of 1965. This protective legislation was included to address the most blatant efforts that continue to deny the vote to many African Americans and to stop the continuing assaults on the free exercise of this precious franchise.
After hearing the arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, the nine justices of the Supreme Court must decide if these protective measures are still needed. Their decision will be rendered in a few months.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “The rights 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 race, color or previous condition of servitude. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Up until 1965, the right to vote for most African Americans in the southern states was denied by absurd voter qualification tests or sheer violence, including the murder of many brave souls, both Black and White, who dared to register Black voters.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed to fully implement the 15th Amendment; and to eliminate this stranglehold of fear and intimidation that prevented our people from their right as American citizens to vote. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination must have any changes to voting laws, including voter eligibility
requirements, and redistricting, pre-cleared before they can be enacted, if at all.
After the election of 2012, it is undeniably clear that there was a concert- ed and well-funded effort to suppress the vote of African Americans and other voters who were perceived to be supporters of President Obama and his Democratic platform.
Early voting periods and Sunday voting were reduced or eliminated. There was also the imposition of the costly requirement for government issued photo identification for voters who had been voting at the same polling sites for years. Many polling sites were moved and the number of poll workers reduced, creating confusion and long lines to vote.
Several cases were brought under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to overcome these efforts to disenfran- chise voters in 2012 before the November election. In each instance the jurisdictions had to take corrective actions to the benefit of potential voters. This clearly demonstrates the present and continuing need for Section 5 protection.
How dare Justice Antonin Scalia denigrate the protection of the right to vote of African American citizens of these United States as a “racial entitlement”? The right to vote is the funda- mental component of our American citizenship. It is to be exercised without racially motivated barriers — and without the thinly veiled racial language used by Justice Scalia.
He should recuse himself from deliberating in this case based on the clear racial bias in his comment.
Laura D.Blackburne, Chair
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