Friday, August 05, 2005

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was arguably the most important piece of Civil Rights legislation since the Civil War, one hundred hears before. And, if left unauthorized, could expire in less than two years.

Aspects of the Act would remain law. Open discrimination in voting will, thankfully, remain a violation of U.S. law. What will expire, however, are the parts of the Act that provide the tools for enforcing non-discrimination.

Many people cheer this expiration. It's not that they are necessarily racists, it's just that they feel discrimination is no longer a problem and that such strict enforcement is no longer needed.

Here's an example of how the enforcement sections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) - those sections set to expire in 2007 - work to protect voter rights:

In Kilmichael, Mississippi, the all-White town council cancelled their municipal elections at the last minute, when Census data revealed that African Americans had become a majority in the town. Enough black candidates had qualified to run so that—for the first time—the town council could have had an African-American majority. The all-White council cancelled the election to prevent that. The Justice Department was able to act on this and prevent the cancellation because of the enforcement sections of the VRA. Without them, the town council would have had their way - legal or not.

Now, that example doesn't come from 1965, when the VRA was new. That example is from 2001. It is fresh. It is new. It is now. The full VRA is still needed and used to keep elections open to all Americans, regardless of race.

Read more examples and background in "Ballot Box Equality" by Stuart Comstock-Gay on

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