U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised to uphold voting rights in his keynote address this morning at the Conference of National Black Churches annual meeting in Washington D.C. The three-day event is being held in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus and focuses on issues of concern to members of the nation’s nine largest African American denominations.
The Attorney General promised to defend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, especially Section 5, which requires Justice Department clearance before changes can be made to voting laws in Southern states and those that have a history of disenfranchising Black voters.
“This process, known as ‘preclearance,’ has been a powerful tool in combating discrimination for decades. And it has consistently enjoyed broad bipartisan support – including in its most recent reauthorization, when President Bush and an overwhelming Congressional majority came together in 2006 to renew the Act’s key provisions – and extend it until 2031. Yet, in the six years since its reauthorization, Section 5 has increasingly come under attack by those who claim it’s no longer needed,” said Holder.
He also said that between 1965 and 2010, only eight challenges to Section 5 were filed in court, but in the last two years there have been “no fewer than nine lawsuits contesting the constitutionality of that provision.” Each challenge “claims that we’ve attained a new era of electoral equality, that America in 2012 has moved beyond the challenges of 1965, and that Section 5 is no longer necessary,” he said, adding that “nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders” enacted in more than a dozen states “could make it significantly harder for many eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”
“We’re now examining a number of redistricting plans in covered jurisdictions, as well as other types of changes to our election systems and processes – including changes to the procedures governing third-party voter registration organizations, to early voting procedures, and to photo identification requirements – to ensure that there is no discriminatory purpose or effect. If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And, as we have demonstrated repeatedly, when a jurisdiction fails to meet its burden of proving that a proposed voting change would not have a racially discriminatory effect – we will object, as we have in 15 separate cases since last September,” said Holder.
The Attorney General also promised to protect the voting rights of military personnel and other Americans living abroad, as well as veterans, citizens with disabilities, college students, and language minorities at home, but said “no form of electoral fraud ever has been – or ever will be – tolerated by the United States government.”
Coincidentally, in a statement published by The Hill today, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking members of the Committees on the Judiciary and House Administration, announced that they were joining other Democrats in introducing the Voter Empowerment Act, which they say “protects the integrity of elections by improving eligible voters’ access to the ballot box” by modernizing voter registration, “automatically and permanently enroll consenting eligible voters,” providing for online registration, allowing same day voter registration at the poll, and simplifying the registration process for members of the military serving overseas, among other things.
What do you think?
Are voting rights in danger or are Democrats engaging in “get out the vote” scare tactics?
RACE BAITING?: Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land. (Photo: Baptist Press News)
Just when the Southern Baptist Convention is making strides in its efforts to make black folks feel more at home in the denomination, along comes Richard Land, president of its Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to throw an obstacle onto the road to racial harmony by accusing President Obama of the worst kind of race baiting.
On his March 31 radio show, Land said the president is “aiding and abetting” “race hustlers” like the Revs. Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, and Jesse Jackson in fomenting violence in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting.
“This situation is getting out of hand and there’s going to be violence. And, when there is violence, it’s going to be Jesse Jackson’s fault, and it’s going to be Al Sharpton’s fault, it’s going to be Louis Farrakhan’s fault, and to a certain degree it’s going to be President Obama’s fault,” said Land. “It was Mr. Obama who turned this tragedy into a national issue. He should have learned from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police incident to stay out of these issues until the facts are clear, but he urged Americans to engage in soul searching, and then he said, ‘If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.’ The president’s aides claim he was showing compassion for the victim’s family. In reality, he poured gasoline on the racialist fires under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus.”
In an interview with The Tennessean, the Rev. Maxie Miller, “a Florida Baptist Convention expert in African-American church planting,” said he had never before been embarrassed to be a Southern Baptist or a black Southern Baptist. “I’m embarrassed because of the words that man has stated,” said Miller, who reportedly lives 90 minutes away from Sanford, Florida, where Martin was shot.
“I think the convention is doing a great job with diversity … but Land’s comments definitely will make my work harder — encouraging African-Americans to be a part of Southern Baptist Convention life,” Miller said.
Land’s critique wasn’t only directed at President Obama. He said it will be U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s fault if violence breaks out in response to $10,000 “Wanted: Dead or Alive” bounty flyers for alleged shooter George Zimmerman’s “capture.”
“Until Mr. Holder and the justice department do something about this, they’re going to continue to do it and when they end up killing somebody, it’s going to be Mr. Holder’s fault,” said Land.
He identified the group who distributed the flyers as “The Black Panthers,” but Mediaite reported that a group calling itself the New Black Panther Party is responsible. “The New Black Panthers are not affiliated with the original Black Panther Party in any way. In fact, leaders of the original Panthers have denounced the NBPP, even suing them for use of the name, and stating that the New Black Panthers operate on ‘hatred of white people.’ The NBPP has been designated a ‘hate group; by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League.”
Land also said a “failure of leadership on the part of African American leadership in this country” is to blame for inflaming the situation and said “the media” has “shamelessly exploited” it.
What do you think?
Should Christian ethicisit Richard Land take a hard look in the ‘race baiting’ mirror or is there some validity in his critique?
Most of my life I have been thinking about race and religion–as a child when my family left my native Costa Rica to move to inner-city New Jersey, as a teenager struggling to develop my faith and learning to navigate race relations, then as a young adult serving internationally with a missions organization. The issues were always boldly present. Now, as I live my “ever after” as the wife of a South African man, we are trying to raise a family that is intimately committed to God and, as an overflow, passionately committed to social justice. Last year we followed the election closely, and dinnertime was lively with talk of politics, race, and religion.
Wow! Some strong words this week about race relations in America from Eric Holder, our new attorney general. In a speech to Justice Department employees commemorating Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate in their private lives.