Voting Rights legislation set to be reviewed

Published 7:45pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On Feb. 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires pre-clearance from the federal government before states can take action that might dilute the black vote.

Section 5 was originally put into place in states that specifically had laws hindering the black vote, states that had a test or device restricting the opportunity to register and vote.

States that abide by Section 5 include Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia.

If Section 5 were to be declared unconstitutional, Sen. Hank Sanders said its repercussions could be devastating for Alabama.

“The Voting Rights Act has been the single most effective piece of legislation that Congress has ever passed and it was effective because of Section 5,” Sanders said. “Now the court is considering whether to declare it unconstitutional and that would be a tremendous setback because that’s the heart of the Voting Rights Act.”

If found constitutional, Section 5 would not be questioned again and remain in effect until 2031.

Sanders said he believes that Section 5 has been called into question largely because of Obama’s recent success in taking the presidential seat. By declaring Section 5 unconstitutional and redistricting voting areas, Sanders said certain states would have the power to dilute the black vote.

“When President Obama was elected in 2008, it caused a tremendous backlash in several areas of the country,” Sanders said. “[If Section 5 was found unconstitutional] I think [state officials] would draw new districts that would create a problem, like they did in Virginia.”

As a way to protest, Sanders said several workshops will be going on during the week of the annual Jubilee Bridge Crossing Celebration that would educate residents on Section 5 and it’s importance. Jubilee will begin Thursday, Feb. 28 and conclude with the bridge crossing reenactment on Sunday, March 3.

“In addition to workshops, we’re going to have the march again from Selma to Montgomery,” Sanders said. “And it’s not in celebration of the Voting Rights Act, it’s an effort to keep Section 5, the heart of the Voting Rights Act, alive.”

Sanders encouraged everyone to attend the workshops and fight for Section 5 because without it, he said; our future could be very grim.

“Just like how Section 5 had a powerful impact over the years, if we don’t have it, it will have a powerful negative impact,” he said. “It’s like reaching in my chest and pulling my heart out and expecting the body to keep operating. It just won’t work.”

Editor's Picks