GARY L. FLOWERS: Black Leadership Cites Setback On Voting Rights

by  Gary Flowers
Executive Director & CEO Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

Washington, DC  –  The Black Leadership Forum, Inc. deems today’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court is a severe setback for voting rights in America.

“The attack on voting rights in the United States of America is as old as the Republic itself”, said Dr. E. Faye Williams, Board Chair of the Forum.

When the framers of the United States Constitution sought to “…form a more perfect union…” they did so to form a strong federal government, with limited rights of state governments. Of course, the lofty words of Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Franklin only applied only to White males. History reminds us that “we, the people” (conscientious Whites, African Americans, Women, Asians, and Hispanics, and 18-years olds) had to pressure Congress to enact Constitutional Amendments for their right to vote—at least on paper amidst massive resistance from those who believed in the founders’ view of voter suppression.

For example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted 95 years after the 15th Amendment to outlaw barriers to voting based on race. The core of the Act was a pre-clearance provision (Section 5) for jurisdictions (mostly in southern states) with bad records of racial discrimination against people of color at polling places.  The Act required such jurisdictions to secure clearance from the United States Department of Justice for their respective voting plans.

According to Executive Director Gary Flowers, “Black robes of the Supreme Court have replaced white robes worn by Ku Klux Klan in the 1800’s.”

Today’s policy debate over voting rights can be broken down into two camps. In one camp are those who believe that states have the right under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to control voting laws in federal elections, however restrictive the laws. In the other camp are those of us who believe federal elections should be federalized.  In other words, a Constitutional Amendment is necessary to grant all Americans—regardless of race or ethnicity—the individual right to vote with federal oversight for federal elections.

Politically, we must put an end to state-control of federal elections by calling on the White House and Congress to pass and enact a Constitutional Amendment for an individual right to vote protected by the U.S. Constitution. For those who believe such would take too long it is worth noting that of the 27 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution 7 were enacted into laws in less than one year. In fact, the 26th Amendment (granting18-year olds voting rights) became law in only 3 months. Why? There was a demand for the White House and Congress to do the right thing.

After all, strong-willed American presidents throughout our nation’s history, in order to form a more perfect union, have supported the enactment of progressive Constitutional Amendments in order move the country forward. For example, President Lincoln helped to persuade Congress to enact the 13th Amendment abolishing American slavery.

The Black Leadership Forum, Inc. is an alliance of 51 national African American organizations linked to influence legislation impacting African Americans in the United States.