Voting rights coalition meets in Shelby County on 8th anniversary of Shelby vs Holder decision to call for an end to voter suppression

A coalition of Alabama voting rights advocates held a press conference in front of the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana,  Alabama to decry the lack of progress on voting rights on the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County vs. Holder case. The Supreme Court’s decision gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided for pre-clearance by the U. S. Department of Justice of changes in voting laws, rules and regulations by state and local jurisdictions in the Southern statesThis decision unleashed a torrent of laws and regulations which made it more difficult for Black, Brown, poor and young people to vote around our nation. Benard Simelton, State President of the NAACP said, “We are here today in Shelby County on the 8th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s putting a knife in the back of the VRA, to call for unfettered access to the polls for all people and an end to voter suppression which is designed to depress the votes of Black, Brown and other disadvantaged people. We are not sitting back. We are actively working to fight voter suppression in all of its ways. “Laws like the one passed in Georgia to prohibit people from giving snacks and water to people on line to vote. The curbs on drop-boxes and curbside voting must be changed. The changes that affect how votes are counted. The purging of voters must all be changed,” said Simelton. Jessica Barker, Coordinator of Lift Our Vote from Huntsville, said, “We are demanding a change to end voter suppression and support our voting rights. We are here today to support the national efforts to support voting rights by passing HR 1 and S1 – The For the People Act and HR-4 The John Lewis Voter Advancement Act, in the United States Congress.” Pastor McMillan of Shelby County, said, “We are here today to try to rescue democracy for all people in Alabama and the nation. Access to the vote is not just reserved for the rich and powerful but for all of us.” Dr. Adia Winfrey of Transform Alabama spoke on her efforts to marshal the power of hip-hop culture to involve young people in the fight for voting rights and civil rights. John Zippert, SaveOurselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy linked the struggle for voting rights with other social change campaigns that SOS is working on including Medicaid Expansion, Criminal Justice Reform, Economic Justice and Worker’s Rights. Rachel Knowles, a white staff member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she was a native of Shelby County, grew up there and went to public schools, however, “Now I am ashamed and disappointed to be from a place that is opposed to voting rights for all people.” Rev. Carolyn Foster of the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign said, “Voting rights is a moral and systemic justice issue. We are concerned with restrictive voter ID laws, redistricting problems and the myth of voter fraud. The only way to change things and get what you want is to organize to take it.” After the Courthouse Rally, the groups moved to Orr Park in Montevalo, Alabama and held a ‘voting rights fair” with booths to register people, including the previously incarcerated, get vaccine for the coronavirus, music, food, and fellowship.

Obama commutes 348 prison sentences, the most of any President in recent history

 prison

Prison Cells

Written By NewsOne Staff

          Underscoring his calls for criminal justice reform, President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the prison sentences of 42 people who were locked up as non-violent drug offenders.

The harsh prison terms were doled out under “outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws,” the White House said in a statement. Most were “small-time drug dealers who received long sentences under a code shaped by the government’s war on drugs,” the report says:

Some were serving life sentences. Held in various prisons across the country, they will be released between October 1, 2016 and June 3, 2018.

Obama has now commuted sentences for 348 people, more than the total amount issued by the previous seven presidents combined.

Obama has called for legislation to reduce sentences and provide alternative punishments for small-time offenders. “There remain thousands of men and women in federal prison serving sentences longer than necessary, often due to overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences,” the White House said.

An estimated 2.2 million people are locked away behind bars in the United States, including “the mentally ill and drug addicts,” who are often people of color.