Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
The Alabama State organization of the NAACP in partnership with Alabama Arise, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Alabama Forward, Faith & Works Collective, Groundwork Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Shake the Field and the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy held “A Shelby Day of Action” in Shelby County, Alabama.
The day’s activities were held to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the June 25, 2013, decision in the Supreme Court case of Shelby vs Holder, which declared Section 4B of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, no longer applicable, thus invalidating Section 5 of the VRA, which provided for preclearance of voting changes in states and political jurisdictions that historically discriminated against voters of color.
Immediately after the decision, many southern states, including Alabama, tightened restrictions on voting rights. Overall, in the nine years, since the Shelby vs Holder decision, more than 800 changes have been made in state and local voting laws, making them more restrictive and designed to suppress the votes of Black, Brown, Native, young, and poor people. Some changes have been small -like closing individual polling places; some have been large – stringent voter ID requirements, reducing early voting, mail-in voting, and drop-boxes; and some have been cruel – like preventing groups from distributing water and snacks to people on long waiting lines outside polling places.
The program Saturday began with a press conference at the Calera City Hall in Calera, a town in Shelby County which was involved in the Supreme Court decision and then the program moved to rally and exhibits in Orr Park in Montevallo, another Shelby County town.
At the press conference, Benard Simelton, President of the Alabama NAACP decried the decision in Shelby vs Holder, “as the most devastating decision of the Supreme Court relative to voting rights. By invalidating Section’s 4 and 5 of the VRA, the Supreme Court gutted this important legislation and turned around 40 years of progress on democracy and voting rights in America.”
Simelton said, “The NAACP is in this fight for voting rights to win. We plan to keep pushing for voting rights, restoration of the Voting Rights Act and fair redistricting plans at the state and county level. We invited everyone to join us in this fight to save democracy and extend voting rights in Alabama and America.”
Simelton and other speakers also condemned the Supreme Court’s decision this past week reversing Roe Vs Wade and ending abortion rights for girls and women in this country.
Robyn Hyden, Executive Director of Alabama Arise said, “it is important that we protect and expand voting rights in Alabama, especially for the poor and the elderly. WE must support voting by mail and early voting to help the people of our state.
Marcia Johnson Blanco of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whose organization has provided legal support for the legal case against the Alabama Congressional redistricting plan. “We must continue to fight for the reinstatement of the preclearance sections of the VRA to reverse this attack on our voting rights,” she said.
Blanca Mendez of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice said, “We need to fight together for voting rights. Everyone and every vote counts.”
Evan Milligan, Director of Alabama Forward and a named plaintiff in the Alabama Congressional redistricting lawsuit said, “Our case won at the Federal District Court level and the appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, however the Supreme Court said we were too close to the 2022 elections and postponed our case. Our next hearing will be on October 4, 2022, to move our case forward. We have the only racial equity redistricting case, in this cycle, that has been successful in the Federal courts. We must keep organizing, networking, and educating people about our voting rights.”
John Zippert with the Steering Committee of the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy added, “The 2013 decision in Shelby was part of a long set of regressive decisions by a conservative Supreme Court which have set back voting rights and democracy in this country.”
He also pointed to the 2012 Supreme Court case which allowed states to exempt themselves from the Medicaid Expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act. “SOS is fighting voter suppression, for Medicaid Expansion, criminal justice and prison reform and a change in the Alabama monuments law. All these issues are related and part of an effort to push back justice and democracy in our state.”