Civil rights activists sharply attacked the Supreme Court's decision Tuesday that a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional, with the Rev. Al Sharpton saying the ruling "canceled the dream" of Rev. Martin Luther King.
Another veteran leader from the civil rights movement, Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, told ABC News
, "What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
"This act helped liberate not just a people but a nation," said the 73-year-old former activist, who was on hand when the act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
The court's 5-4 ruling said the formula is flawed that the Justice Department uses to determine which states and counties are subject to pre-clearance by DOJ before making changes such as voting district lines and polling places.
Sharpton, a talk show host on MSNBC, said the ruling "just canceled the dream," in reference to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Vowing to "mobilize the national community," Sharpton said President Barack Obama and Congress need to hear from those who are upset.
"What they have just done is really revoked a lot of what Dr. King's dream was all about," Sharpton told Politico
. "We build a monument to Dr. King, and part of, at least half, of what Dr. King's dream was about was voter rights '65. They've just revoked that. They just canceled the dream. And the children of the dream are not going to sit by and allow that to happen."
But John Fund, writing in National Review Online
, said that striking down Section 4 of the act will not mean a return to discrimination.
"The rest of the Voting Rights Act remains in place and will be used to ensure minority voting rights," Fund wrote.
Fund also quoted Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute, who noted that the decision will reduce balkanization caused by racial gerrymandering. "Voting districts drawn on racial or ethnic lines divide Americans,” Bolick said.
Politicians in Mississippi and Alabama, two of the states affected by the act, were mixed in their view of the ruling as well.
"There are still forces at work that would like to disenfranchise African Americans and other groups of voters," Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper
. "We have seen evidence of this with the latest efforts to require voter ID in states around the country."
But Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi told the Clarion-Ledger, "Today's ruling is a recognition of the fact that things have changed in the last 50 years.”
Republican Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also was pleased with the ruling.
"Fifty years ago, there were valid reasons this law was passed. But even though conditions changed over time, the Section 4 test of the Voting Rights Act did not," Bentley said.
Alabama Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat, disagreed, reported WVTM-TV in Birmingham
"The members of Congress must immediately enact a new statute to ensure the protection of every American's right to vote. The lives that were lost fighting to enact the Voting Rights Act must not be lost in vain," Figures said.
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