Voting in the home of Voting Act

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2008

The issue:

Only 25 percent of Selma&8217;s registered voters participated in Tuesday&8217;s election.

Our position: Voters have a responsibility, a civic duty to participate in elections.

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The blood shed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March 1965 must be forgotten by a majority of people here in Selma.

Almost any school child knows the story of the second march to dramatize the need for a federal registration law.

Almost any school child can tell you that the march was led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams.

Almost any school child can tell you that the marchers were attack by mounted police.

Almost any school child can tell you that the sight of Alabama state troopers using nightsticks and tear gas flashed across most television screens in the nation.

Almost any school child can tell you that the event has become known as Bloody Sunday and that event occurred right here in Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Two days later, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led another march of 1,500 people and after crossing the bridge, those marchers were met with a barricade of state troopers, and King turned back.

That move and the martyrdom of an Episcopal theologian, James J. Reeb, led then-President Lyndon Johnson to send troops to protect the marchers. King led the marchers, this time 25,000 of them, to the state Capitol and handed then-Gov. George Wallace a petition that demanded voting rights for black people. The following night, the Ku Klux Klan killed Viola Liuzzo, as she returned from the march.

In August 1965, five months after the march, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

So many sacrifices to make a check in a box at a polling place.

On Tuesday, Selma&8217;s 14,700 voters listed on the rolls had the opportunity to vote up or down a $12.3 million bond issue.

The bond issue failed.

But the rest of the story is that 3,615 people in the city where people died to enable others to have the right to vote &8212; 3,615 people or 25 percent &8212; bothered to cast a ballot.

Those registered voters who live in the city and did not vote owe an apology to every living person who walked across that bridge to fight for the right of black people to vote. In freeing up the vote for blacks, the protesters of those days freed all of us, no matter the color.

What the people who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge those three different times dramatized that people together are bigger than government; bigger than intimidation; bigger than death.

What the people who crossed the bridge said is that no matter the color, a man-made law that violates the natural rights of humans is wrong.

And when registered voters do not go to the polls to exercise that civic responsibility, they blaspheme the very memory of those who went before them to clear the way.

Twenty-five percent of the people living in Selma remember the lessons they learned as school children about the struggle to ensure that all people are created equal.

Somehow, 75

percent either have not learned the lesson or simply do not care.

We hope it is through ignorance that these people did not vote.