Activists rally for voting rights at the Supreme Court

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Hundreds of activists rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 27, as the justices heard oral arguments in the voter rights case, Shelby County v. Holder. At issue is a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—Section 5—that requires certain states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to have any changes in voting procedures submitted to the Justice Department or a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., for approval before any change can take effect. The Supreme Court is being asked to declare this section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Activists who gathered outside the Supreme Court say the provision is still necessary.

AFT Executive Vice-President Fran Lawrence. Photo: Michael Campbell

"Section 5 has a strong track record. We have made immense progress protecting and expanding the right to vote over the past decade," AFT executive vice president Fran Lawrence told the crowd." We don't want future generations to read about how we in 2013 turned back the clock on that progress. The Voting Rights Act continues to play a crucial role in preventing and addressing real threats to Americans' right to vote. Never have we needed it more." (Read AFT's press release on the case.)

Martin Luther King III told the crowd there is still work to do. "Forty-five years later, the movement is still going on," he said, referring to the assassination of his father in 1968. "We understand what our mission is, the work is not over."

The crowd also heard from the Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, and Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP. The Freedom Riders for Voting Rights and the League of Women Voters were among the other organizations whose representatives spoke at the event. [Adrienne Coles/photo by Michael Campbell/video by Matthew Jones and Brett Sherman]

February 28, 2013