Friday, June 23

Voting Rights Act on the Ropes

Yesterday Firedoglake made an offhand mention of something that should make every Black and non-Racist White person in America rise-up in outrage, but so far hasn't even generated a serious whimper.
"Rep Lynn I Can’t Name the 10 Commandments. Even Though I’m Sponsoring a Bill on Them" Westmoreland (R-GA) is leading a coalition of Southern Republicans to sink the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

Who would have thought that the law that protects your right to vote in this nation just might expire - or be significantly modified by Southern Republicans to "lower the burden" on their states to comply? (Burdens like the ban on the use of the Poll Tax, Biased "Literacy" Tests which were used to deny the Vote to Blacks, strategies which haven't gone away - but instead have been updated for the new Millenium)

For those of you - Like the President - who've forgotten exactly what the Votings Rights Act is, it's one of the crowning jewels of the Civil Rights Movement, a law intented to end the nearly century long practice of blocking Black people from access to the vote despite the ratification of the 15th Amendment.

Let's let Claude Allen, for head of the White House Domestic Affairs (before he abruptly retired due to felony shopping lifting charges) refresh everyones recollection.

Terry, from Illinois writes:
What exactly is the Voting Rights Act? I thought we all had the right to vote in our country, hense why we are a democracy?

Claude A. Allen
Thanks for your question, Terry. The Voting Rights Act, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, has been called one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted. Most important, the Voting Rights Act enforces the Constitution's ban on discrimination in voting on the basis of race.

President Bush has directed the full power and resources of the Justice Department to protect each person's right to vote and to preserve the integrity of our voting process. The President has also called on Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act, and the Administration looks forward to working with Congress in the coming year to reauthorize this vital piece of civil rights legislation
In response to those in Congress who seem to think voting discrimination is a "thing of the past", Rep John Lewis (D-GA) had this to say.

"[I]t was during the middle of the last census that the Georgia State Legislature authored a redistricting plan that severely diluted the power of the African American vote. It was Georgia that developed the modern-day poll tax, as one federal judge called it, that disenfranchises rural voters, the elderly, the disabled, students and other minorities who have no government photo ID. It is the state of Georgia that has received over 80 objections from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice since the last reauthorization, pointing to discriminatory voting plans agreed to by state, county, and local governments. And Georgia represents only a part of the over 1000 objections the DOJ has seen fit to make since the last reauthorization in 1982.

"The evidence shows that voting discrimination in America is not dead, and the Voting Rights Act must retain its original power in order to assure that democracy prevails in every hill and valley, every city and suburb, on every fertile farm and every desert plain in America. If we as a nation and a people are truly committed to the full participation of every American in the democratic process, then there should be no serious impediment to the passage of H.R. 9. To every Member who has looked at the overwhelming evidence, it is clear that we have come a great distance, but we still have a great distance to go before we can lay down the burden of voting discrimination in America."

Despite the empty platitudes of Mr. Allen, the fact is that Voting Rights Act is genuinely at risk. With their claims that they need a "Majority of the Majority" to agree before they can vote on amendments, and arguements over creating English-Only ballots, there is the very strong likelyhood that this Congress could introduce a escape clause which would allow practices that target minority voters such as "Caging" (As discovered by John Conyers Report on Ohio 2004 (PDF)).

We can't let this happen, we can't let the blood and sweat that was spilled during the Civil Right Era by the Freedom Riders, Dr. Martin Luther King be wasted this way.

The Toll-Free Phone Number of Congress is 888-355-3588, just dial it and they will immediately connect you to any member, even Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Let them know just how you feel.

Hat Tip to Georgia10 on Dkos for keeping this issue in the spotlight.


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