With tens of thousands of people expected to gather this weekend in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a turning point in the American Civil Rights movement, activists hope to use the moment to turn the spotlight back on voting rights issues in the USA. President Obama will visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Saturday, joining living foot soldiers of the civil rights movement at the landmark. The bridge is where hundreds of peaceful protesters were brutally beaten on “Bloody Sunday” as they sought to end discriminatory tactics — such as poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests — used by white officials to prevent African Americans from voting. The protesters of Selma ultimately prevailed, and the moment helped usher in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in moves that activists call sweeping erosions of voting rights that disproportionately affect minority communities, several states have passed more stringent voter ID rules after the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key provision of the landmark legislation that was birthed with the blood and sweat of the Selma protesters.
With the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the Voting Rights Act formula used to determine which parts of the country would need federal approval — known as preclearance — to change their voting procedures was outdated. The court instructed Congress to write a new formula that was reflective of current conditions, but Congress has yet to act.
Since the court ruling, legislatures — including those in North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin — have passed measures that require voter ID or proof of citizenship and have reduced early voting days and poll locations.
“We’re celebrating something that has been neutered,” said James Perkins, who was elected as Selma’s first African-American mayor nearly 25 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed. “That is exactly what it feels like. You’ve kicked the teeth out of a lion.”
Full Article: Fight over voting rights continues on Selma anniversary.