Monday, August 10, 2015

POLITICS - Voting Rights Act

"50 years on, does the Voting Rights Act offer adequate protection?" PBS NewsHour 8/6/2015

IMHO:  This is just a Republican conservative attempt to suppress minorities that tend to vote liberal.  It's a power grab.  For decades there has been NO PROF of widespread voter fraud.


SUMMARY:  Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act outlawed discriminatory practices used to stop Americans from casting a ballot.  President Obama marked the occasion with civil rights leaders, cautioning that those rights are still at risk.  Gwen Ifill talks to Imani Clark, a student at Prairie View A&M University, voting rights scholar Kareem Crayton and Zoltan Hajnal of University of California, San Diego.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Fifty years ago today, the landmark Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.  Mr. Johnson called the right to vote — quote — “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice.”

President Obama marked the occasion today by hosting civil rights leaders, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Congressman John Lewis, at the White House.  Half-a-century later, he said, voting rights are still at risk.  He singled out a 2013 Supreme Court decision that allows 15 previously monitored states to change their election laws without federal approval.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  In practice, we have still got problems.  On the ground, there are still too many ways in which people are discouraged from voting.  Some of the protections that had been enshrined in the Voting Rights Act itself have been weakened as a consequence of court decisions.

GWEN IFILL:  For more on the significance of today’s anniversary, we are joined by Kareem Crayton, a voting rights scholar and consultant, Zoltan Hajnal, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.  He’s co-author of a recent report on voter participation.  And Imani Clark, she is a student at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college in Waller County, Texas.  She is a plaintiff in a challenge to a Texas voter I.D. law overturned by a federal appeals court only yesterday.

Zoltan Hajnal, I want to talk to you a little bit about the findings in your report; 50 years later, how do you quantify the effect of the Voting Rights Act?

ZOLTAN HAJNAL, University of California, San Diego:  Well, it’s quantifiable in all sorts of different ways, but two of the main ones are in terms of voter registration.

When the act was passed in 1965, in several states, blacks, only about 15 percent or less of blacks were registered to vote.  Very shortly after the act was passed, those registration rates went through the roof.  And blacks are now roughly on par with whites in terms of registration in the South.

The other measure is minority representation in office.  Again, when the act was passed, only a handful of blacks were in office in the South or across the country.  After the act was instituted as well, the number of African-American and Latino and Asian-American elected officials grew year by year, to the point where blacks now have about 10,000 elected positions across the nation, Latinos have about 6,000, and Asian-Americans about — so there’s been tremendous progress.  And all this is in large part to the Voting Rights Act.

GWEN IFILL:  Imani Clark, you were at the White House today when the President, the attorney general, other people, John Lewis, were speaking about the 50-year anniversary.  And I want you to tell us your story.  You wanted to vote.  You had voted before.

IMANI CLARK, Student, Prairie View A&M University:  Yes.

GWEN IFILL:  But then the law changed.  Tell me what happened.

IMANI CLARK:  Well, my freshman year attending Prairie View, I was able to vote during the city election with my student I.D. card.  And then soon after that, you know, this law was going into effect that was preventing students like me.  And it also was targeting minorities, and it just prevented most of us from voting without a Texas I.D. license or a concealed handgun license.

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