Archive for July 30th, 2004
There seems to be some confusion as to the purpose of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Below is an email being circulated on the web. I thought I would clarify and debunk it where appropriate. Thanks to Jon E. for bringing this to my attention.
This is the text of the email floating around out there.
Below you will find a speech that Bill Cosby’s wife gave at a function. Everyone please read this and pass it on to as many African Americans you come in contact with.
Camille Cosby just made a reference about the Voting Rights Act in her most recent open letter on racism. This is extremely important.
We are quickly approaching the 21st Century and we were wondering, and when I say ‘we’, I mean others of us out there who wonder if everyone else out there knows what the significance of the year 2007 is to Black America?
Did you know that our right to VOTE will expire in the year 2007? Seriously! The Voters Rights Act signed in 1965 by Lyndon B. Johnson was just an ACT. It was not made a law.
In 1982, Ronald Reagan amended the Voters Rights Act for another 25 years. Which means that in the year 2007 we could lose the Right to vote!
Does anyone realize that African Americans are the only group of people who require PERMISSION under the United States Constitution to vote! In the year 2007, Congress will once again convene to decide whether or not Blacks should retain the rights to vote (crazy but true).
In order for this to be passed, 38 states will have to approve an extension. This is ludicrous! Not only should the extension be approved, but also the ACT must be made a law. Our right to vote should no longer be up for discussion, review and/or evaluation.
We must contact our Congress-persons, Senators, Alderpersons, etc., to put a stop to this! As bona fide Citizens of the United States, we cannot “drop the ball” on this one! We have come too far to let government make us take such a huge step backward. So please, let us push forward to continue to build the momentum towards gaining equality.
Please pass this onto others, as we are sure that many more individuals are not aware of this. I urge all of you that are able, to contact those in government that have your vote and make them aware of our combined concern for this issue.
One voice!…… One Vote! You cannot complain, if you do not participate….. local, State, & national…..
I can’t find anything that confirms Camille Cosby said anything like this.
The 15th Amendment to the Constitution (Article XV), Section One: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The Voting Rights Act essentially enforces the 15th Amendment. Specifically there were states which prevented disenfranchised African Americans from voting through various qualification laws. For example, if you could not read and right you could not vote. As the whites *generally* were educated and the African Americans *generally* were not, this was (rightfully) construed as abridging the 15th Amendment. Previous to the Voting Rights Act, cases were rarely brought before a judge at any level, let alone a federal level where the 15th Amendment could be enforced.
The Voting Rights Act provides for anyone eligible to vote (any man or woman aged 18 and over regardless of race, religion, etc) to challenge discrimination of any law that prevents them from voting. It also provides federal authorities to investigate and prosecute these discriminatory practices. These provisions allow judges to enforce the rights stated in the 15th Amendment.
When enacted there was distinct and severe disparity between the registration and turnout of white voters and those of any other race. Today there is far more equality of numbers between all races and there is debate about whether the Voting Rights Act should or should not be extended. Some fear a return of openly discriminatory voting laws while others argue that there is enough precedent in the judicial system at every level of every state that it could not happen.
Read this website for more detailed information. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/intro/intro.htm
The trouble with the email is that Blacks do not need permission to vote; it is guaranteed in the 15th Amendment. The Voting Rights Act does not “give permission” to Blacks to vote, it prevents discriminatory laws which prevent *anyone* from voting.
The Voting Rights Act was extended for a variety of reasons over time. For example it was extended to help the large and increasing numbers of hispanic immigrants to America and the extension was to be sure these newcomers would not be discriminated against (*if* they became citizens).
Only the Congress can extend the Voting Rights Act; Presidents have nothing to do with it except sign it into effect, though President Lyndon Johnson asked for Congress to enact it originally. Also, 38 states do not have to pass anything to extend the Act; Congress extends the Act. However, if it were to become an Amendment issue, 38 states would be required to ratify the Amendment. This is an entirely different issue, however.
The text I read, supposedly attributed to Camille Cosby, is dangerous not only because it is wrong, but because it gives the impression that African Americans are legally second class citizens (I’m not even going into the fact of socially/economically second class citizens as that is a whole new ball of wax) and that they are not (now) full participants in the political culture of America.
I certainly hope this email did not originate with someone wishing to be taken seriously; their facts are wrong and misleading. Until 2007 there really isn’t even a reason to be bringing this up as Congress wouldn’t bother until then. In the meantime I would suggest learning more about the issue and voting now for people who will be in office at that time that you feel would represent your opinion in this matter.
UPDATE (2004.08.05): Jon E. has written a bit about this on his site, too.4 Comments | Catergorized: political rights
Last night I listened to some of the Democratic National Convention. I had the good fortune to hear the Reverend Al Sharpton give his speech where he broke away from the reviewed and approved speech he submitted. I’m sure the leadership of the DNC was not happy about that.
It was, however, an amazing speech. Whatever you think of Sharpton, he is an amazingly charismatic speaker. Reading the text just doesn’t give the feel for what he said or how he said it. I have to say I was very impressed. I’m sure my partisan friends will raise objections without even listening to it. They should hear it, whether they agree or not.
It’ll be interesting when the Republicans hold their convention to hear what they have to say. I love it when both parties are right and both parties are wrong at the same time. It helps prove my theory that two party system is bad for freedom and liberty. It’s not a good thing when I don’t vote for a candidate, but against the lesser of two evils. There hasn’t been a single candidate I can think of that I would vote for…Comments Off | Catergorized: political thoughts