1965 Act had unintended effects

Published 12:05am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dear editor,

It is ironic that the city in which the Voting Rights Act had its genesis is now a victim of that act. At the city council’s forum on the proposed ward redistricting plan Monday night, a number of citizens made incisive comments on aspects of the plan and offered excellent suggestions on how to alter the plan. Everyone speaking and in attendance acted in a civil and professional manner.

During the discussion, more than one person expressed a view that I had long held that Selma should not have to get permission from the Justice Department in Washington before we can change district lines, move a polling place, or comply with the Supreme Court’s decisions requiring one man, one vote. However, because of Section 5 of the Voting Right Act, Selma cannot perform any of these acts without getting pre-clearance from Washington.

Because of Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s, redistricting of all legislative bodies from the national to the local level, which elect representatives by districts, is required after each Census. Although, as one citizen pointed out Monday night, populations of Ward in 2012 are not the same as populations when the Census was taken in 2010. The legal requirement is that the figures from the last Census be used as the basis for determining how many people are to be in each district.

All to say, that while the city council will eventually adopt a redistricting plan, much of what must be done as well as the approval of the plan will be done in and dictated by the Federal government and Federal courts in Washington. In 2012 in Selma, that is one of the continuing consequences of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and court decisions related to it.


Cecil Williamson,

President Selma City Council

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