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Mississippians Weigh the Future of the Voting Rights Act

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 01 Mar 2013 07:13pm | comments

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to make its decision on the legality of section five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act . But as  MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports some prominent leaders in Mississippi continue debating the laws usefulness.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave federal officials the tools they needed to defeat efforts to keep blacks from voting. Part of the Act known as Section five requires federal pre clearance of any changes to a states election laws. Officials representing Shelby County Alabama recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the law is outdated and needs to be retired. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman believes that is also the case in Mississippi.

"We run our elections free and fair in our state without discrimination for or against anybody based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, religion, anything else."   

While things have progressed in Mississippi Derrick Johnson, State President of the NAACP says it's all directly related to the 1965 voting rights act.

"After the passage of the Voting Rights Act, after the implementation of section five of that act we have seen every year and increased number who are registered to vote. And as a result of that an increase of individuals who were African Americans elected to office."

Opponents say the re-election of President Barack Obama demonstrates that the country has made tremendous racial progress and that the provision is no longer needed.   Hollis Watkins is  a long time civil rights activist from Jackson.   He says the tragedy as he sees it is that parts of society are looking at things from the wrong perspective.

"Because they talk about how Mississippi has gotten beyond that but we know it has not. Look at when Barack Obama first became president of the United States yes that's a great accomplishment but at the same time we had young black children who were dispelled from school just for mentioning his name."

If the Supreme Court decides to strike down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act Watkins believes the federal government would be losing the strongest weapon it has to prevent discrimination. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.  






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