A Civil Rights Veteran Speaks out Against Possible Changes to Section 5 of the Voting Rights ActBy Lawayne Childrey | Published 26 Feb 2013 09:08pm |
Mississippians are paying close attention as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments today that claims section five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be overturned. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports while some see the provision as an undue burden on states others see it as a still needed means to prevent voter discrimination.
Flonzie Brown-Wright was 24 years old when she registered to vote during the height of the civil rights era.
"We had to fill out a 21 item questionnaire as opposed to a six item for our white counterparts. And some of the questions may have been as ludicrous as are you a communist or how many feathers are on a chicken?"
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave federal officials a potent tool to defeat persistent efforts to keep blacks from voting. Officials representing Shelby County Alabama will argue before the supreme court that section five of the Voting Rights Act which requires federal pre clearance of any changes to a states election laws is no longer needed. Attorneys for Alabama say the country has made tremendous racial progress demonstrated most recently by the re-election of President Barack Obama. However, Brown-Wright who was elected as Madison County Election Commissioner in 1968 says section five is still needed.
"Just as we have seen people trying to circumvent certain sections of the law we have to keep a very very close eye on this so that we don't wake up one day and find that we have no rights just as we did in my lifetime in 1963."
The requirement currently applies to Alabama, Mississippi and 7 other states. But Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman says he believes the time is ripe for change.
"I believe that Mississippi is now prepared to have free and fair elections without the expenditures of going through pre-clearance with the justice department."
While Hoseman supports retiring section five of the Voting Rights Act, Brown-Wright says minority voters still need the protection the law provides.
“There is still a need for the renewal of this act because were it not for this act then a lot of people would not be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”
Since 1982 the U.S. Justice Department has reported using the preclearance process to block the enforcement of more than 2,400 voting changes on the grounds they would undermine minority voting rights. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.
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