6 The Hampton Roads Messenger
Volume 8 Number 1
How to Fight the 'Biggest Wave of Voter Suppression' Since 1965
But a Congressional revival of
Section 4 -- so that Section 5 can once again be employed by DOJ -- could prove to be a distant possibility. “By invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the court has effectively eliminated Section 5 federal oversight,” wrote David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “The current U.S. House of Repre- sentatives will almost certainly NOT provide a new definition for Section 4 coverage, and so Section 5 is out for the foreseeable future.”
Others add that partisan politics North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory BY KHALIL ABDULLAH The same morning Hillary Clinton
was using her highly visible stature at the recent American Bar Association convention to call for increased protection for Americans’ right to vote, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law that strips all residents of same-day voter registration, shortens early voter registration and imposes onerous voter ID requirements.
“We view the attacks on voting
rights in North Carolina to be among the most extreme and regressive we’ve seen in the country,” said Eddie Hailes, managing director and general counsel for Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that works on clearing barriers to the ballot box.
In a statement announcing the
organization’s lawsuit against North Carolina, Advancement Project Co-Director Penda Hair noted that voters of color would be the hardest hit by the new restrictions; young people as well.
For instance, HB 589, the law
Gov. McCrory enacted, will end the pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-old future voters; and increases the likelihood of incidents of intimidation at the polls by allowing voters to be challenged by a registered voter from the same county. In the past, those challenges were limited to voters from the same precinct.
“Right now, in 2013, we’re
having a repeat performance of 2012,” said Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez, director of voter protection for Advancement Project. Proposed voter ID restrictions by 24 states in 2013 head the list as the most popular form of legislative fiat. Other initiatives run the gamut from reducing early voting days – like in North Carolina -- to voter purges.
“Even though this is not a
presidential election year, this Supreme Court decision [Shelby County v. Holder] has opened the door to more and more restrictive voting changes. Yes, it’s better than the ‘60s -- there’s not as much violence involved in these battles of voting rights -- but we’ve seen the biggest wave of voter suppression in the form of modern-day poll taxes and literacy tests since the Voting Rights Act was passed.”
Voting rights advocates are
responding in four main ways. Litigation continues to be the critical bulwark against the implementation unfair voting practices, but, as Cul- liton-Gonzalez notes, litigation is expensive and is sure to test of the resources for the organizations like hers, the ACLU, Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference, the NAACP
Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and others that champion voting rights.
Secondly, public demonstrations
and civil disobedience could raise public awareness about the unjust or disparate impact of newly proposed or enacted laws. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina chapter of NAACP, had some success in rallying protesters against HB 589 and other legislative actions through Moral Monday demonstrations each Monday in Raleigh. His organization is continuing to hold Moral Monday forums outside of the state capitol and is planning demonstrations in 13 of the state’s congressional districts on Aug. 28th to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
Whether the intensity and
discipline of the North Carolina protests can be replicated in other states remains to be seen. Yet other veterans of the civil rights era are encouraging a national movement for the restoration and protection of voting rights.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, 91, a former
president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, used the bully pulpit at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta last week to promote the Voting Rights Project, a new 50-state initiative. “There have been deliberate and systematic attempts at the state level to make it harder for voters to participate,” he said in a statement reported by The Atlanta World. “We must put an immediate stop to this or lose any gains we have made since the Civil Rights movement and passage of the Voting Rights Act.”
A third front of organizational
activity focuses on pressuring Congress to take up the issue of devising a new Section 4 formula so that Section 5 can be fully restored.
Section 5, the strongest oversight
measure of the Voting Rights Act, allows the Department of Justice to challenge proposed changes in election laws before they could be implemented, if those changes could be shown to have discriminatory impact on minority voters. But it was the findings under Section 4’s formula that triggered the DOJ action.
Myrna Perez, deputy director of
the democracy program at Brennan Center for Justice, concurs with turning the focus to Capitol Hill. “We want Congress to have conversations; we want them to hold hearings. We want them to study the issue, talk to experts, review options and come up with something that is bipartisan and constitutional. Section 5 is still constitutional,” she emphasized. “Section 4 requires revisiting and we need Congress to do that.”
could simply lead to Congressional inaction. Both houses of the North Carolina legislature are controlled by Republicans, as is the governor’s office. Congress may speak of re- invigorating Sections 4 and 5, but for some Republican members, it could
be seen as political suicide for their party. Republicans have better odds of holding North Carolina in 2016 with HB 589 enacted and Section 5 sidelined.
While all three prongs of a
voting rights offensive may be in play, ultimately, the endgame in voters’ rights may be the passage of a Constitutional amendment explicitly guaranteeing the right to vote. Currently, that right is only implicit under federal law. Resources, again, may be the determinant of whether such a movement can be sustained. At a time when African-American and Latino voters are often marginalized by successful gerrymandering, the amount of energy required to move a coalition forward will be formidable. Still, said Culliton-Gonzalez, “We’re not going away.”
Students to Provide Medical Care to Needy Nicaraguans
BY STEVE MILNER College of William and Mary
senior Victoria Walker recently told Portsmouth Rotary Club members how she and several other pre-medical students will go to Nicaragua later this year during their winter break. They’ll work with American and Nicaraguan doctors and dentists to provide care to dozens of indigent Nicaraguans in three poorly equipped village clinics on the outskirts of that country’s capital, Managua.
This will be the second mission
to Nicaragua for Walker, who plans to become a neurosurgeon.
She will be part of the
College of William and Mary’s Medical Relief (WMMR) Team, working with the larger International Service Learning (ISL) Organization. ISL enlists medical and educational volunteer teams to provide services to under-served populations in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Africa.
According to Walker, WMMR
gives invaluable hands-on experience to pre-medical students and, more importantly, provides immediate medical aid to impoverished Nicaraguan neighborhoods visited. Once there, the students also will conduct health education and surveys to aid in the prevention of many common illnesses.
Recalling her volunteer work
last year in Nicaragua, Walker said that word spread quickly in the villages about their presence. The United States and local medical teams usually assist large numbers of individuals and family members during their three-day visits to each of three villages.
A New Jersey dentist who is
the father of a team member, will again go to Nicaragua. During last year’s winter school break, the W&M team worked alongside a Nicaraguan family physician, pediatrician and a dentist.
Walker stressed the importance
of assisting Nicaragua, which she says is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. “The poor there have less access to health care services, including immunizations and prenatal and birth care, and also a lack of access to water and sanitation services.”
She said a little less than half of
that country lives on less than a dollar a day.
College of William & Mary senior Victoria Walker will return to Nicaragua later this year to help provide medical services to poor villagers. She recently spoke to the Portsmouth Rotary Club. Photo by Steve Milner
“We are self-funded and an
entirely student-run group,” Walker said.
She added that all of the
medical equipment and medications provided at their clinics are donated by U.S. hospitals and private medical practices.
She said her volunteer group has
given her the opportunity to practice patient interviews and examinations, to learn about disease prevention, vaccinations, eye examinations and basic pharmacy skills. “It’s also enabled me to understand the importance of establishing healthy patient-doctor relationships.”
And Walker said her work provides
personal satisfaction. She emphasized this point by quoting her role model, recently retired and nationally known neurosurgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the former head of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Neurosurgery Department.
Dr. Carson has noted, “Happiness
doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”
“My goal in life,” she added, “is to
be happy and help those less fortunate than I am. There are no words that can express how truly blessed I feel to have this opportunity twice to bring medical relief to those in need.”
For additional information and
for those wishing to donate to this effort, contact her at vlwalker@email. wm.edu
Additionally, this W&M
volunteer group has an Instagram page that will be updated regularly starting in mid-September. The user name is WMMRTeam.
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