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59th Anniversary Bloody Sunday
On March 7, 1965 state and local police attacked hundreds of civil rights marchers during a march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery to protest police brutality and racial discrimination in voting. Bloody Sunday catalyzed the passage of the most successful and impactful civil rights law ever passed: the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).
After years of intimidation, murders, and advocacy the path to the voting booth was supposedly cleared for Black people with the federal Voting Rights Act. Bloody Sunday had forced Congress to enact federal voting rights protections which banned racial discrimination in the voting process.
Originally, legislators hoped that within five years of its passage, the issues surrounding the 1965 Voting Rights Act would be resolved and there would be no further need for its enforcement-related provisions. They were wrong. Congress had to extend these provisions in 1970, 1975, 1982 and most recently in 2007, this time for 25 years.
Yet in Shelby County vs. Holder 2013, the US Supreme Court rendered Section 5 of the VRA inoperative by striking down its formula for deciding which jurisdictions must follow its preclearance terms. LWVUS filed an amicus brief at the US Supreme Court, arguing the law’s provision of federal oversight of local election procedures was needed to protect voters of color. A bill to rewrite the coverage formula has yet to pass out of Congress since then.
Following the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, many of the previously covered jurisdictions enacted anti-voter bills that would have been struck down under the preclearance system. Previously covered states like Texas, Alabama, and North Carolina passed legislation known to disenfranchise Black voters and other voters of color. The ruling is widely cited by voting rights activists and experts as one of the largest setbacks for voting rights in modern history.
The Women of Bloody Sunday
Selma and Current Threats to the Voting Rights Act
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