11-24-2017  1:27 am      •     
MLK Breakfast
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NEWS BRIEFS

Kenton Library Hosts African American Genealogy Event Dec. 2

Stephen Hanks to present on genealogy resources and methods ...

PSU Hires New Police Chief

Donnell Tanksley brings policing philosophy rooted in community engagement to PSU ...

African American Portraits Exhibit at PAM Ends Dec. 29

Towards the end of its six month run, exhibit conveys the Black experience, late 1800s - 1990s ...

SEI, Sunshine Division Offer Thanksgiving Meals to Families in Need

Turkeys are being provided to fill 200 Thanksgiving food boxes for SEI families ...

NAACP Portland Monthly Meeting Nov. 18

Monthly general membership meeting takes place on Saturday, 12 - 2 p.m. ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Black Celebrities, Athletes and Politicians Must Respect the Black Press

Rosetta Miller-Perry discusses how Black celebrities snub the Black Press when they get “discovered” by the mainstream media ...

Local Author Visits North Portland Library

Renee Watson teaches students and educators about the power of writing ...

Is the FBI’s New Focus on “Black Identity Extremists” the New COINTELPRO?

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) talks about the FBI’s misguided report on “Black Identity Extremism” and negative Facebook ads. ...

ACA Enrollment Surging, Even Though It Ends Dec. 15

NNPA contributing writer Cash Michaels writes about enrollment efforts ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson NNPA Guest Columnist

With its ruling on the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court has taken the country back to a time when racial minorities were not able to participate equitably in the voting process.  The court's decision is disgraceful to civil rights leaders and legislators who have fought to preserve equal voting rights in this country.

It reminds me of a time in our history when minorities were prevented from voting because they had to pay a "poll tax" before they could vote.  The tax represented a mean-spirited and vicious way of keeping hundreds of thousands of people from voting.  The objection to eliminating the poll tax was that it would allow people of color to "flood the polls."

I recall having to pay a poll tax to vote in Texas. The practice began in my state in 1902. It did not end until 1966. During those 64 years, hundreds of thousands of our citizens were denied the right to vote, an opportunity to participate in American democracy.  The federal government prohibited the use of a poll tax in national elections in 1964 with the passage of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The court's current assault on the Voting Rights Act prevents the federal government from ensuring that states with a history of racial discrimination will not enact voting methods and procedures that will deny a very significant right and duty.

Prior to that time nine states, mostly located in the southern United States, had to receive clearance or prior approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before they could institute changes in voting methods or engage in redistricting.

In its ruling, the court did not alter Section 5. Instead, it ruled that the formula, detailed in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, used to determine which states should be covered by Section 5, went beyond constitutional limits and used data that was outdated. The effect of that ruling is to mute Section 5, and allow states to amend voting procedures and practices as they see fit without fear of federal intervention.

Those who advocated for radical changes in the Voting Rights Act said that increasing numbers of racial minorities participated in state and national elections. They even pointed to the election of President Barack Obama as a reason for the elimination of federal oversight and intervention.

The reality is that since 2010, eight southern states passed laws designed to make voting more cumbersome for racial minorities.  Various civil rights organizations and entities such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have consistently opposed the elimination of federal involvement in local elections.

Recently, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge said that without Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act minority voters would suffer.

Efforts to lessen the impact of the minority vote in Texas have been egregious. Last summer, a federal court in Washington stated that a redistricting map enacted by the Republican controlled legislature was "purposefully discriminatory."

In the spring of 2012, the Texas NAACP and Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives went to federal court to stop the state from requiring a photo ID in state elections.  A federal court agreed, finding that the law violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Now, the Texas Attorney General says he is going go to the photo ID requirement in place.

Bipartisan coalitions of members of both the House and Senate have historically supported the Voting Rights Act and its provisions.  In 2006, the Act was renewed for 25 years. The vote in the House was 390 to 30, while the vote in the Senate was 98 to zero. President George W. Bush signed the measure.

Simply stated, the Voting Rights Act is the perpetuation of our democracy. We are a great country because all of our citizens have the right to exercise the right to vote without fear of intimidation.

Congress must now come together to do what we all know is the right thing to do. We must once again make the Voting Rights Act a principled piece of legislation that protects all of our citizens, regardless of race, class, or religious preference. This is why we are Americans.  This is fundamental to our freedom.

 

Congresswoman Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas

 

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