FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond the Edmund Pettus Bridge

The stirring film Selma ends with Dr. King leading civil rights marchers across the bridge and to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It will help a new generation of Americans appreciate that historic accomplishment.

But what should not be forgotten is that the passage of the Voting Rights Act wasn’t the end of the battle. The effort to suppress the rights of African Americans to vote continued.   Southern states and localities invented a range of techniques – from making voting and registration difficult to gerrymandering districts to get the right results.  African Americans made progress, but not without a fight.

Vital to the continuing fight was the Voting Rights Act, particularly section 5 which gave the Department of Justice the right of pre-clearance of any substantial change in voting procedures or laws in states that had a history of racial suppression of the vote. But in the 2013 Supreme Court case of Shelby County vs. Holder, the five person right-wing majority of the Court ruled, in an opinion written Chief Justice John Roberts, that Section 5 was outmoded and unnecessary, and thus a violation of the Constitution. This breathtaking leap of judicial activism disabled the key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Immediately, Republicans across the country began to pass laws designed to constrict the vote, as well as elaborate gerrymanders designed to magnify the effect of white votes. New laws in 21 states made it harder to vote.  New forms of government ID were required – in effect a tax on those – largely elderly people of color – without them.  Restrictions were passed to make registration and voting harder, to cut off student participation.  Voting hours were reduced; voting booths cut and made less accessible, and more.  Republicans claimed that there were measures to cut down on voter fraud but were unable to demonstrate that there was any voter fraud to worry about.

As President Obama said in April, ““The stark and simple truth is this — the right to vote is threatened today — in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,”

And these laws are having the effect intended.  In North Carolina’s tight Senate race in 2014, Republican Tom Tillis beat incumbent Kay Hagen by about 43,000 votes (1.7% of the vote).  Tillis had ushered through the state legislature one of the harshest voter suppression laws, eliminating seven days of early voting (and at least one Sunday of “get your souls to the polls” rallies at African American churches), eliminating same day registration, forcing voters to vote in their own precinct and more.  700,000 voters had voted in the now eliminated early seven-day window in 2012, 200,000 in the 2012 bi-election.  100,000 largely African American voters took advantage of same day registration in 2012.  The voters eliminated may well have exceeded the vote margin.

Similarly in Florida, Governor Rick Scott reversed his predecessor’s reforms that allowed former convicts who had served their time to regain the right to vote.  That disenfranchised far more than Scott’s margin over his Democratic opponent.  In Florida, an ugly one in three African American men is permanently disenfranchised.  This is the new Jim Crow on the march.

Making registration and voting easy and accessible to minorities, students, the elderly, the disabled, the working class isn’t hard.  We know what works.

What we witness is simply a continuation of the battle that reached one of its turning points on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.  The Voting Rights Act was passed, but the opponents of equal rights never surrendered.  They have continued to resist and obstruct.  What the film Selma depicts is history, but it is also a call to action – for the struggle for even the basic right to vote in America is still not secure.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH. 

 

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail