Rebuilding Our Community One Vote at a Time

Unless you have been living under a rock and have not noticed, we are living in some very strange times.

The Bible says it this way in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Our country and more to the point black people have been through the best of times and the worst of times but there have been two significant things that happened in the ‘60s that must continue to be protected at all cost.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Acts was passed and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

The Civil Rights Act ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the Civil Rights Movement.

The companion to the Civil Rights Act is the Voting Rights Act that was signed into law in 1965.

The Voting Rights Act states that “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard or practice or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any state or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

I was born the year after the Civil Rights Act was passed and signed and in the year that the Voting Rights Act was passed and signed. I have never lived without either in place, and I couldn’t imagine living without either one.

Since I have taken an active part in the NAACP, we are still fighting some of the same fights for equal opportunity employment, not so much for voting because even though Illinois does not have a budget, it is easy to vote here!

Most provisions in the Voting Rights Act, specifically the portions that guarantee that no one may be denied the right to vote because of his or her race or color, are permanent but some enforcement related provisions have required reauthorizations over the years.

Originally, in 1965, legislators hoped that within five years the problems would be resolved and there would be no further need for these enforcement-related provisions, but it proved necessary to extend them.

In 1970, President Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act. President Nixon said, “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has opened participation in the political process.”

In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act.

Take notice, all three were Republicans.

In 2006, Congress extended Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 was enacted to freeze changes in election practices or procedures in covered jurisdictions until the new procedures have been determined, either after administrative review by the Attorney General or after a lawsuit before the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This administrative review is required to insure the changes have neither discriminatory purpose nor effect.

Section 5 was designed to ensure that voting changes in covered jurisdictions could not be implemented until a favorable determination has been obtained.

But that was until the inconceivable and for some the unbelievable happened in 2008. Barack Obama was overwhelmingly elected our 44th president.

The Bible says in the Gospel of John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

This is what Sen. Mitch McConnell said in a meeting down the street held at the same time as the Inauguration Ball while the Obamas were dancing to “At Last”: “We are going to do all we can to make President Obama a one-term President.”

The wheels were set in motion to do just that.

In 2010, the Department of Justice had 18 Section 5 objections to voting laws in Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana.

In 2011, a record number of restrictions to voting were introduced in state legislatures nationwide, including photo ID requirements.

Included in that were cuts to early voting and restrictions to voter registration.

Many of those states introducing this legislation have histories of voter discrimination and were covered by the Voting Rights Act.

There was some good news in 2011. The Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law saying it discriminates against minority voters.

That victory was short lived because in 2013 Shelby V. Holder, the Supreme Court crippled one of the most effective protections for the right to vote by rendering ineffective the requirement that certain jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination get pre approval for voting changes.

Those states, that include Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, South Dakota, Iowa and Indiana, wasted no time enacting potentially discriminatory laws.

Some claim these changes protect against voter fraud which sounds good, but out of the millions of votes cast, there has been little to no voter fraud found!

There is no evidence of voter fraud, but there is evidence of voter depression and suppression especially among communities of color, young voters and lower income Americans.

This is one of those things that will make you say hmmm.

So when I hear things like, “We are going to take our country back” and we are going to “Make America Great Again,” the questions I have is back where, for whom and how? When you listen closely, it is a call to go back to a time before the Civil Rights Act.

If they come for the Voting Rights Act first, the next logical step is the Civil Rights Act.

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