NAACP fights to keep Voting Rights Act - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

NAACP fights to keep Voting Rights Act

By Lori Brown - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Members of the NAACP are fighting to keep the Voting Rights Act on the books.

More than 44 years after the Voting Rights Act passed, members of the NAACP say a key part of the Act is needed just as much today as it was in 1965.

"The purpose of this act is to ensure that all citizens of the United States, blacks, browns, reds, whatever, whatever gender or whatever else, that you have a right to vote, a sacred, right to vote," said Dr. Warner Dickerson, president of the NAACP's Memphis branch.

NAACP members mobilized in Memphis and across the nation Wednesday in hopes of protecting that right, as U.S. Supreme Court Justices considered if a law passed more than four decades ago is still relevant.

The federal law calls for states with a history of discrimination at the polls to get advance Justice Department approval of changes in how they conduct elections. The rule applies to all or parts of 16 states with a history of voter discrimination. In 2006, Congress voted to extend the provision for 25 years.

But a district in Texas is challenging the rule, calling it an unconstitutional intrusion into the domain of state and local governments.

The high court's liberal justices have been strongly defending Congress' actions. But conservative justices have led a sustained attack.

Justice Anthony Kennedy may be the deciding vote. He says the rule has helped root out voter discrimination over the past 44 years. But, he adds, times have changed.

Johnnie Turner says the act is definitely relevant.

"The data clearly shows discrimination does continue to happen throughout selected states and counties," Turner said.

At issue is a requirement that all or parts of 16 states with a history of discrimination in voting get approval from the Justice Department before they implement even the smallest changes in the way elections are held.

It's a provision that some say is outdated.

Turner says as long as discrimination exists, the law needs to exist.

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