On Saturday, thousands of people marched through the streets of Atlanta to memorialize the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and to push for its reauthorization. The march was organized by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, president of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, who said “the South must be revived as the battleground for our quest for a transparent and free democracy,” reports the New York Times.
Several key provisions of the Voting Rights Act expire in 2007, including requirements that nine states, mostly in the South, and parts of seven other states receive federal approval of changes in their voting rules. Conservatives oppose reauthorizing this section, and some have opposed reauthorizing requirements to provide election materials to immigrant voters in their native languages, reports the Associated Press. On Friday, Representative John Lewis (D-GA) urged Congress to reauthorize the voting Rights Act, and Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) intend to cosponsor the Senate bill.
In the 40 years since the inception of the Voting Rights Act, African-American voting rates have risen to near-record heights, with 56 percent of African-American registered voters participating in the 2004 elections, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But threats to the Voting Rights Act could have even broader implications. At the rally, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi connected the Voting Rights Act with recent allegations of voting irregularities, saying “we must be sure that every vote that is cast is a vote that’s counted,” reports the Times.