The Voting Rights Act has not outlived its usefulness and in fact should be expanded, says former Ambassador Andrew Young, who helped draft it in 1965.
“You think we wouldn’t be having this discussion 50 years later,’’ Young told Steve Malzberg on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show.’’
“People are making efforts to make it more difficult for citizens to vote at a time when we need more citizens voting.’’
At issue is a case in front of Supreme Court involving Alabama’s Shelby County, which questions the validity of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
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That section requires states with a history of racial discrimination to have any changes to their voting laws pre-approved by the Justice Department or federal court.
The suit claims the section — which now only affects a handful of states — is outdated and has outlived its usefulness.
And there are suggestions the Supreme Court may agree. Young does not.
“If anything, the incidents of the last election and the voter suppression all across the country to me mean we really need to expand Section 5’s jurisdiction to include Ohio and some of the other states that were left out,’’ Young said.
“Wherever any minority becomes a threat, there are attempts at gerrymandering, redrawing lines to minimize the impact of a group of people, whoever they might be.’’
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Young — now Chairman of GoodWorks International, a global advisory firm he founded in 1996 — said as currently written, Section 5 allows the Justice Department an important say in how states conduct elections.
That includes efforts to register voters, poll hours and the creation of voter identification cards, the latter which he said are “very hard to get when you’re over 65 or when you move around quite a bit.’’
He said the suit before the Supreme Court “is opening up a discussion that we need to have as a nation and one that started 50 years ago.
“I was there when President [Lyndon] Johnson said we do need to protect the voting rights of all citizens,’’ Young said.
“Dr. [Martin Luther] King then said we’ve got to find a way to give the president some power and before long we were invited into Selma, Ala.
“A number of people gave their lives. There were assassinations across Mississippi trying to keep people from voting.’’
And while things have improved, Young admits, “there are still pockets of prejudice … Shelby County is the one that put some black women in jail supposedly for rigging an election.
“These were two nice church ladies who were making absentee ballots available,’’ he said.
“In fact, we help senior citizens in Atlanta and Georgia on Sundays to get their absentee ballots —but in Shelby County they put people in jail for doing that.’’
Young said he believes racism still exists in “specific pockets’’ of the United States.
“That is not that everybody is prejudiced but that there are pockets of prejudice in just about every state of the Union,’’ he said.
States now covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act include Alabama, Texas, South Dakota, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, California and Alaska.
The landmark piece of legislation made illegal discriminatory voting practices across the nation.
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