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The Right to Vote Today. The Right to Vote Tomorrow. The Right to Vote Forever.


The right to vote today. The right to vote tomorrow. The right to vote forever.

By Redeye | Left in Alabama | Tue Aug 04, 2009

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson (D. Texas) signed the National Voting Rights Act.  For my fellow Americans who've always had the right and the priviledge to vote today may not be a big deal to you, but to me and mine it's a very big deal. 

The right to vote is sacred to African Americans.  I know it sounds cliche, but it's steeped in blood, sweat, tears, courage and sacrifice.  That's why we don't think Voter Suppresion with the State Seal of Approval is  funny.   It's why we shake our heads at The Tough Voter ID Laws.  It's why we get weep silently when the real voter suppression gets a slap on the wrist and the imagined voter fraud is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  It's like pre 1965 alll over again.

My paternal grandparents were allowed to vote in the 1940's because they were educated and educators.  They were teachers at what was known then as the Veterans Continuation School (pre GI Bill), a federal program designed for veterans returning home from the war to continue their education.  They attended classes at night and received a stipend.  One of the classes was how to pass the Literacy test.  My grandparents were exempt from paying the $2.00 poll tax because they taught at the school.   So you see, even though they were veterans returning home from war, they didn't have the full rights and privileges they were fighting for overseas.

My maternal grandfather could vote because as my mother says "he worked in the mines" and he was grandfathered in because his father "worked in the mines".  My maternal grandmother cast her first vote after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  She was a Republican because "Lincoln freed the slaves".  As much as we tried to tell her that was the Republican party of yesterday, she was loyal to the Republican party until the day she died.

My parents cast their first votes right here in Madison County in the 1950's.  Although it was pre Voting Rights Act, they didn't have to pay a poll tax or take a literacy test.  I remember my Daddy taking me to the Madison County Courthouse to register to vote on my 18th birthday, and my younger siblings on their 18th birthday.  It's a rite of passage I continued with my own offspring.

Today is in honor of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (D. Texas) for having the courage to do the right thing.  It's in honor of Viola Luzzio,  who was murdered after the Selma to Montgomery March.  Today we honor the memories of Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, Denise McNair, Carol Robinson, Addie Mae Collins and Carol Wesley.

Some GOP members of congress believed the National Voting Rights Act is "over reaching" and objected to renewing it in 2006.  Fortunately they were over ruled and the Voting Rights Act was extended for another 25 years. 

In July 2006, 41 years after the Voting Rights Act passed, renewal of the temporary provisions enjoyed bi-partisan support. However, a number of Republican lawmakers acted to amend, delay or defeat renewal of the Act for various reasons. One group of lawmakers led by Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland came from some preclearance states, and claimed that it was no longer fair to target their states, given the passage of time since 1965 and the changes their states had made to provide fair elections and voting. Another group of 80 legislators supported an amendment offered by Steve King of Iowa, seeking to strip provisions from the Act that required that translators or multilingual ballots be provided for U.S. citizens who do not speak English.[5] The "King letter" said that providing ballots or interpreters in multiple languages is a costly, unfunded mandate.

Will the National Voting Rights Act need to be extended another 25 years?  I don't know, but based on current GOP/conservative sentiment it sure looks like it.

 

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