FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Erika Lewis (202)463-2940 x1016
CHALLENGE TO VOTING RIGHTS ACT IN NORTH CAROLINA
RAISES ALARM OVER DISENFRANCHISEMENT
NC ONE OF TWO SOUTHERN STATES TO VOTE DEMOCRATIC IN 2008 ELECTION
Five local white citizens are challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act in Kinston, North Carolina, a small, majority African American town. The case was brought as an attempt to reverse United States Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to deny their attempts to change the elections in the city from partisan to nonpartisan. The Department of Justice concluded that the change would likely worsen the opportunities of minority voters to elect their candidates of choice. The challenge comes on the heels of a Supreme Court case last year from the state of Texas, backed by conservative groups attempting to reverse Section 5, often termed the heart of the Voting Rights Act.
“The NAACP fully supports the decision of the Department of Justice and US Attorney General Eric Holder to protect the voting rights of Americans who have been disenfranchised for years due to discriminatory practices at the ballot box,” stated North Carolina NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber.
“Within the state of North Carolina – particularly in the Eastern part of the State – there are still communities that do not have elected African American representation on local boards and commissions. This may be a part of the legacy of the violent 1898 Wilmington Riots, where a democratically elected local government of blacks and whites was violently overthrown and black political power in the area negated. This event was just recently made a part of NC official history. In 2010, we cannot stand for cynical attempts to jeopardize our democracy and disenfranchise millions of voters by overturning this essential element of the Voting Rights Act. This effort would not only affect the voting rights of African Americans in Kinston, North Carolina, but would also impact the voting rights of African Americans nationwide. We cannot allow this to happen,” concluded Barber.
Section 5, was instituted in 1965 to both block and deter discriminatory voting changes in a select number of jurisdictions throughout the country. Specifically, Section 5 requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to submit proposed voting changes to its election process to either the Department of Justice or D.C. District Court for pre-approval. In 2006, Congress concluded that the Section 5 preclearance provision was still necessary to prevent minority citizens from being deprived of the right to fully participate in our democracy.
"This challenge to the Voting Rights Act dishonors the legacies of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Vernon Dahmer , the courageous NAACP leader from Mississippi, and countless other civil right leaders who gave their lives for the right to vote and elect people of our choice,” said Carolyn Coleman, First Vice-President of the North Carolina NAACP. “This challenge will affect Kinston and all forty counties in North Carolina that are covered by the Voting Rights Act, as well as those in other states that are protected by the Act.”
“The effect of restrictive voting rights falls disproportionately on minorities and minority communities nationwide. Section 5 is still needed to prevent new tactics from being used to discourage and disenfranchise minority voters, and the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the jurisdictions covered under Section 5 need to be extended,” stated William Cooke, NAACP Kinston Branch President.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Pastor Greenleaf Christian Church office: 919-735-9059
State Conference President NC NAACP State Office: 919-682-4700–www.naacpnc.org–www.hkonj.com
National NAACP Board Member
Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters and Righteousness Like a Mighty Stream.