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Civil Rights Leaders are Watching Challenge to 1965 Voting Rights Act Closely

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 20 Feb 2013 08:10pm | comments

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week that claims Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is an undue burden on states and should be overturned.  But as MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports civil rights leaders in Mississippi want the Justices to remember the struggles of the past as they consider the case.

Section five of the Voting Rights Act requires federal pre clearance of any changes to a states election laws.  Derrick Johnson State Director of the NAACP says that one provision is the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"And it is that section of the act that has allowed Mississippi to be a more inclusive democracy."

Johnson says he's concerned about the impact ending section five of the Voting Rights Act would have on Mississippi.

"The immediate impact of the act not being in place would result in how jurisdictions proceed with municipal elections this year. How jurisdictions determine polling locations and alerting voters of polling locations. There are some jurisdictions that are still going through redistricting and other changes in election laws, practices and procedures,"

Two years before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, civil rights icon Medgar Evers was gunned down at his Jackson home. He spent years registering blacks to vote. His daughter, Rena Evers Everette says if Evers were alive today he would say the struggle has not ended.

And that the smokescreen is still there and we have to really continue to look at all pieces of what the government is putting out for us. Voting rights is number one that is the we are empowered in order to achieve equality."

Secretary of State for Delbert Hoseman is still waiting for Mississippi's voter ID law to clear the Justice Department under the section five provision.  He says he doesn't believe the process of pre-clearance is still necessary in the state. 

"I do believe that we are fair now. As I've watched the elections here the last five years I believe we have made good progress here doing the things that are necessary to conduct free and fair elections in our state and all parts of our state. And I think we should work our way out of section five."

The case is being brought by officials representing Shelby County Alabama. Lawyers  will argue that the law has outlived its purpose of protecting minority voters in an era that has seen a black man twice elected president of the United States. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.




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