We need a Shelby to D.C. march

GEORGE E. CURRY | 3/9/2015, 8:12 a.m.
After ceremonies wrap up Sunday in Alabama commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the signing of the ...
George Curry

(NNPA) – After ceremonies wrap up Sunday in Alabama commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a group of die-hard demonstrators will re-enact the full march.

“We are re-enacting the full 54-mile March this year,” Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Charles Steele announced at a press conference in Montgomery. “The March will begin in Selma on Sunday, March 8th, with the Commemoration of Bloody Sunday, and will conclude on Friday, March 13th, with an 11:00 a.m. event on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.”

At the news conference, Alabama state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, correctly noted, “The right to vote is being challenged at every turn. From voter photo ID (modern day poll tax), proof of citizenship to register (modern day literacy test) and reduction in voting and voter registration days to the Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act and more, Americans are losing the right to vote, which so many people sacrificed their lives and blood to secure.”

In Shelby V. Holder, by a margin of 5 to 4 in June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to gut Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required jurisdictions with a proven history of racial discrimination to pre-clear any election law change with the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The case grew out of a decision by Calera, a small city in Shelby County, Alabama, to implement a redistricting plan that led to the defeat of the city’s lone African American City Council member. Under the plan, a district that was 71 percent Black was redrawn so that its Black population was reduced to 23 percent. The plan was never submitted for pre-approval.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, more than 40 bills have been introduced in 17 states that would restrict access to registration or voting.

In view of these politically motivated efforts to suppress the Black vote in particular, I am hereby proposing a Shelby County, Alabama, to Washington, D.C. March, with the goal of getting Congress to protect the integrity of voting in the U.S. Just as the Selma-to-Montgomery March led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a Shelby County to D.C. March could pressure Congress to act again to protect the sacred right to vote.

The march would kick-off in Calera, about 30 minutes south of Birmingham, and address the relevant voting issues along the march route.

After Calera, Alabama, the next stop would be in Georgia, where marchers could express support for proposed legislation that would expand opportunities for eligible citizens to vote, and provide for or expand the electronic transfer of voters’ information between state agencies.

In South Carolina, demonstrators could support a bill that would relax voter ID or citizenship laws and legislation that would make it easier for people with disabilities to cast a ballot.