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Miss. Civil Rights Leaders Respond to SCOTUS Ruling

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 26 Jun 2013 06:00am | comments
President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes Martin Luther King Jr.'s hand after signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.

Civil rights leaders in Mississippi are denouncing the  U.S. Supreme Court ruling that blocks enforcement of a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The justices have determined states, including Mississippi and local governments no longer need federal approval before making any changes to its voting laws and procedures.    


Flonzie Brown Wright of Canton helped to register black to vote in the turbulent 60's. She's fearful that the Supreme Court’s ruling could signal a return to the voting injustices of the past.  


"I'm almost 71, but in my lifetime, my friends could not register and vote but for a civil rights act, I testified before a Congress to bring examiners to get rid of this 21 questionnaire, how many bubbles in a bar of soap, how many feathers on a chicken, how foolish is that?  But Black folk had to endure those kinds of inhumane treatment just to try and attain the right to register and vote," says Brown. 


The pre-clearance provisions have been in effect in areas with a history of racial discrimination including Mississippi.


But Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann believes the courts decision puts Mississippi on equal footing with ever other state.  


"It's an affirmation, we have started where we were in 1965, and now 85% of Mississippians are registered to vote, we have more African-Americans than anywhere else registered to vote in our state, it's an affirmation of the process that worked," says Hosemann.    


However, Bear Atwood, Legal Director with the ACLU of Mississippi disagrees.


"I know some people have said, 'Well you know, Black voter participation has been going up, so the problem is solved,'  What I would says is, the voting rights act is keeping us honest and making that Black people in Mississippi and across the country have access to the polls," explains Atwood.    


Without the protection of preclearance, State Senator John Horhn of Jackson believes the ruling is taking a step in the wrong direction.


"Pre-clearance in particular, was a good tool to use to at least mitigate some of the foolishness that we often see, voter ID is the law of the land in the state of Mississippi right now, we think that's going to inhibit the ability of all people in the state to be able to vote freely," says Horhn.         


Since states no longer need pre-clearance from the justice department Secretary of State Hosemann says Mississippi voters could begin showing photo identification at the polls by mid-2014.  






President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes Martin Luther King Jr.'s hand after signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.



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