Mississippi Civil Rights Leaders Supporting Pre-Clearance BillBy Paul Boger | Published 12 Jun 2014 08:30am |
Civil rights leaders in Mississippi are supporting a Congressional bill that would require the state to receive federal pre-approval before making any changes to its election system. MPB's Paul Boger reports the legislation would reintroduce a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was struck down by the U-S Supreme Court last year.
In 1964, Hollis Watkins helped organize Freedom Summer -- a movement that registered African Americans living in Mississippi to vote. Now, 50 years later, Watkins believes those voters are facing many of the same problems they did in 1964.
"The same issue that we were fighting for back then, we're facing and fighting for those same issues right now." says Watkins. "You know, the whole bit around voting, we were fighting to get the right to vote. There were barriers then; we have our barriers today."
Last year, the U-S Supreme Court ruled that the part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required Southern states to get pre-approval for all election changes was unconstitutional. However, a measure was introduced in the U-S House of Representatives that would replace the provision. Watkins believes reestablishing the provision would be a step forward in making sure everyone gets the chance to vote.
"I think it's a good small step." Watkins says. "Having that gives you another tier to work with. It's not going to solve all of the problems, but I think having the pre-clearance piece brought back into the mix is a good thing to do."
State officials on the other hand, believe federal oversight of elections should be a thing of the past. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says Mississippi has made great strides since the Voting Rights Act was originally drafted into law.
"Any voting requirement should be uniform against all the states or in favor of all of the states." Hosemann says. "To isolate the State of Mississippi on some, to me, mythical or trumped up percentage formula is wrong. So if we're going to have pre-clearance there ought to be pre-clearance for all 50 states.
Hosemann went onto say that elections are a state's issue, and that Mississippi has the right to govern itself.
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