Congress recently passed a bill officially honoring the 1965 marchers in Selma, Alabama, but the ACLU, while appreciative of this gesture, says a more important honor would be to pass the Voting Rights Act of 2015. The legislation would help protect voting rights by restoring laws that prevented certain types of voter discrimination, and by adding new rules to help keep elections fair.
The recent film, Selma, called attention to the events of Selma, Alabama, in 1965, in which protesters marched and suffered beatings and attacks of tear gas. The protests, and the images of marchers’ brutalization, reached the nation and led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The legislation aimed to prevent voters from being disenfranchised through literacy tests and other tricks. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 specifically targeted states that had made efforts to prevent minority voters from having a say, by requiring those states to get approval for any new laws related to voting.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that this portion of the law was obsolete and unconstitutional, and struck it from use. Within days, politicians in some of the previously-affected states were accused of redistricting voters in unequal ways in order to sway elections and disenfranchise certain voters.
Now, there’s a move to restore the lost portions of the law. On Saturday, March 7, President Obama and former President Bush will join others in Selma for a commemoration of the march, as organizers and civil rights activists seek passage of the replacement legislation, the Voting Rights Act of 2015, a bill introduced with bipartisan support by Democrat John Conyers of Michigan and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.
The ACLU is joining the call for the legislation to pass, asking for Congress to support the rights for which the Selma protesters marched and suffered.
“Honoring the foot soldiers of Selma is a great step forward on the march toward justice for those who sacrificed for us. However, the momentum must continue. There must be just as strong a showing of bipartisan support to fix the legislation for which they sacrificed, starting with congressional hearings and votes to move the bill forward.”
If you’d like to echo the sentiments, there’s a petition here calling for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
Restore the power of the Voting Rights Act to protect the right to vote for all Americans.”
The full text of the Voting Rights Act of 2015 can be read here.
[Photo by William Lovelace via Getty Images]