The Voting Rights Act (VRA) that went into effect 25 June 2013 has led to some states implementing measures making it harder for racial minorities and the aged to cast a ballot. Voting rights advocates are trying hard, but attempts to rectify the situation are stalled in Congress. The implications are significant. The approaching autumn midterm elections may be the first national elections in almost 50 years that hamper citizens of color and others in exercising the rights granted them by federal law.
In the case of Shelby County versus Holder the High Court struck down a significant provision known as Section 5. This required specific “covered” regions with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval before amending their voting systems in ways that might threaten minority voting rights. A year to the day after this ruling, 25 June 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a bipartisan legislative hearing aiming at restoring Section 5. This action is called the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA.)
Debate has continued since the ruling a year ago. The NAACP maintains that failure to enact the VRAA will lead to voting discrimination. Unless VRAA is approved some Americans, starting this November, will lose the right to vote because of their race and/or proficiency in the English language.
President of The NAACP Longview Chapter, Branden Johnson is appealing for widespread civic involvement/representation, including interacting with members of Congress in order to schedule hearings on the Voting Rights Amendment Acts. Johnson called upon registered, experienced voters to assist elderly and first-time voters in acquiring necessary documentation and identification to allow them to vote. Moreover, he is urging the clergy to educate their congregations on the importance of registering and voting at every opportunity, in addition to registering and fielding a network of 2.5 million digital activists to support unencumbered access to polls and insure every ballot is counted.
Political Action Chair Vic Verma of the Longview Chapter of the NAACP declares discrimination is already taking place at the polls. He cites the case of a Kilgore woman who was prohibited from voting in Precinct 17 because she did not have an ID.
U.S. servicemen fight globally to assure persons in every country get to vote and be counted. Unsurprisingly, Reverend David Mays, a Vietnam veteran, pointed out to voting rights supporters how our soldiers have traditionally died to preserve the rights of others.
“Today there are forces at work in our own country attempting to take away peoples’ freedom to cat a vote,” he said.
Some have lost the right to vote because they are elderly and no longer have a driver’s license. Some women cannot presently vote because they have married and have a new last name.
“I put my life art risk on foreign soil so that others might have the right to vote, the right to self-government,” said Mays. “I will not stand by while our freedoms are taken away at home step by step. The time to stop this insanity is now.”
Mays fears the VRA might be the first step in America returning to its long-ago tradition of institutionalized racism.
“Our country was sparked and formed by people living and working in a land where they could not participate in self-government,” he said. “We are a proud and fearless people. We take care of everyone at home, and reach out to those far away and give our all for freedom and self-government.”
Mays encourages everyone, especially elected officials, to establish and maintain a fair voting system.
By Joycelyne Fadojutimi