Blacks continue fight to secure voting rights

Freddie Allen | 12/2/2013, 1:57 a.m.

“The Voting Rights Act also contains temporary provisions, including the Section 4 coverage formula and the Section 5 ‘preclearance provision,’ which required that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination (as determined by a ‘coverage formula’) obtain federal approval before implementing any voting change. At first the coverage formula applied to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and 40 counties in North Carolina,” the report stated.

For decades, state and local jurisdictions with the most egregious voting rights violations were forced to pre-clear changes in voting laws. Black voter registration grew. Now nearly 70 percent of voting-aged Blacks are registered. In the 2012 presidential election, Black voter turnout topped White voter turnout for the first time in our nation’s history. More than 66 percent of eligible Black voters went to the polls compared to about 64 percent of registered White voters.

The Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder cleared the path for Republican state legislators to pass new laws that threaten to disenfranchise minority voters. When the Supreme Court stripped Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively ending protections that voters had under Section 5, voters were left virtually to fend for themselves, as politicians launched laws restrictive voting laws making it tougher for the young, the old, the poor and minorities to vote.

According to the report, “North Carolina’s legislature passed laws that restricted the types of photo identification used in order to vote, shortened early voting, ended same-day voter registration, and prohibited preregistration that allowed high school students to register to vote before their 18th birthday.”

Many Southern states led by GOP lawmakers have launched voter ID laws to fight non-existent voter fraud.

“The most common example of the harm wrought by imprecise and inflated claims of ‘voter fraud’ is the call for in-person photo identification requirements. Such photo ID laws are effective only in preventing individuals from impersonating other voters at the poll – an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning,” the Brennan Center report stated.

In Florida, state lawmakers “reinstated a program to purge voters,” a faulty program that was blocked by earlier lawsuits.

The report called on citizens to contact members of Congress and to urge them to pass new legislation that would restore Section 4 of the VRA and reinvigorate the voter protections under Section 5.

“The civil rights community and the public must now apply a heightened level of vigilance to ensure that the gains of the past 50 years are not lost, and to continue the historic trajectory of ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible voters,” the report stated.

The report continued: “Citizens must become engaged in their communities and ensure that their elected officials are aware that they are being watched and that attempts to roll back hard-fought gains will not be tolerated.”