Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

March 22, 2014

For all of us, Congress must act to protect the right to vote

This month we’ve honored the anniversaries of events that we hoped would change America forever.

On March 21, 1965, hundreds of men and women began a peaceful march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery to stand up for one of the most cherished and fundamental rights in our democracy — the right to vote. But on Sunday, March 7 — two weeks before this successful march — the demonstrators were stopped on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. There, state troopers and local police met peace with violence. They unleashed nightsticks and tear gas, and they charged the protesters from horseback.

These events did set our nation on a new course, but the problem of discrimination in voting has not yet been eradicated. The days of violent intimidation to prevent African-Americans and Latinos from exercising the franchise may be behind us, but the right to vote is still far too often a promise rather than a guarantee, and racial discrimination in voting continues to plague our democracy, in old forms and new.

To protect the gains of the past 50 years, we need to ensure that our laws continue to protect against discrimination in 21st-century America.

When Congress first passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, racial discrimination in voting was pervasive, blatant and geographically concentrated. Towns and counties in many states would disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters by imposing literacy tests, demanding that citizens subject themselves to demeaning exercises — such as calculating the number of bubbles in a bar of soap before they would be permitted to vote — or through outright violence and intimidation.

The Voting Rights Act addressed these challenges by providing a series of remedies against discrimination, including a process known as “preclearance,” which required towns, counties and states with a history of discrimination to undergo a specific federal review before implementing electoral changes. For almost 50 years, this process prevented new voting laws from being implemented until a determination had been made that the new laws would not be racially discriminatory.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Close the tax loophole that sends US corporations overseas Since we last overhauled our federal tax code, in 1986, countries around the world have lowered their tax rates, leaving the United States with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed word. At the same time, the system has become full of inef

    July 29, 2014

  • Israel and the U.S.: Whose survival instinct is stronger? There’s something darkly coincidental in the fact that the latest weapon to be deployed against the survival instinct of both Israel and the United States is an alleged “heartlessness” when it comes to children. The people of Israel are castigated in

    July 29, 2014

  • College cost isn't big problem for poor students To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting mo

    July 29, 2014

  • Ducks, geese a blessing I would like to respond to the “Geese and ducks causing problems in Veterans Park” article that was published in the Mt. Vernon Register-News on July 16, 2014. I must share that I do understand that at times there have been a great number of the Cana

    July 29, 2014

  • Money not always the answer I really have to stop and think sometimes. I challenge my thought processes when I write these columns. I am having a hard time with this one. It appears to me that every time a governmental agency or any of the entities that spend other people’s mon

    July 29, 2014

  • Teachers unions' destructive behavior You can always count on the national teachers unions to behave badly at their annual conventions, and they certainly didn’t let us down this month. In doing so, however, they let down many of their members, along with students who are working hard to

    July 26, 2014

  • Workers of the world, curb your ambitions A group of Democrats introduced legislation this week to protect low-paid shift workers from last-minute changes in their schedules. The idea fits into an intriguing category of economic activism: Not trying to lift low-paid workers out of poverty, n

    July 26, 2014

  • State of the reunion ‘Katy! It’s been so long! How’ve you been?”My God, she’s gained so much weight I didn’t recognize her. It’s a good thing we’re all wearing nametags. I thought it was some distant cousin past due with triplets.“Bob! Long time, no see.”No hair, either.

    July 26, 2014

  • Fear indifference ‘Perhaps the Catholic church would volunteer to pony up some cash for the illegals’ care then? Hmm?”“Pope should stay out of it. Matter of civil laws, not church laws.”“Thinking that the pope should want the illegals to go to Argentina to get better

    July 25, 2014

  • A push for felon voting rights If advocates have their way, voting rights could be a new reality for the nation’s incarcerated.Full voting rights for felons is as hot a topic in Washington as voting rights in reverse pushed by voter-ID-tickled Republicans. But with new legislation

    July 25, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks