Museum Statement on Circuit 8 Appeals Court Voting Rights Decision

Memphis, TN, Nov. 21, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- “Give us the ballot, and we will place judges on the benches of the South
who will do justly and love mercy.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,“Give Us the Ballot” speech at
Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Washington, DC, May 17, 1957

The recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit to strike down key tenets of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is a severe blow to the very foundation of our democracy. A provision meticulously designed to safeguard against gerrymandering and voter ID laws, Section 2 has been a cornerstone in the battle against voter suppression. It is deeply disheartening to witness the erosion of the very safeguards that were put in place to protect the right to vote.

Since it's passing in 1964, the Voting Rights Act has been under consistent assault. This year, Alabama's defiance of the Supreme Court's admonition to redraw gerrymandered voting districts and the recent case argued by the South Carolina NAACP before the Supreme Court in October are poignant examples of the ongoing struggle.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the VRA next year, we remember when the 24th Amendment was ratified to eliminate federal and state poll taxes or other assessments on voters during federal elections. Yet, today, we face new challenges that threaten to undermine the progress we have made over the years.

In light of these developments, Congress must take swift and decisive action to pass voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens, including the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Relying solely on the decisions of lower courts jeopardizes the very essence, the checks and balances of our democracy and introduces the risk of partisan influences determining the future of our voting rights.

This battle is not just about the historical struggles, but more about the present war to protect and expand the right to vote for all Americans. We call on all citizens to stand united in defense of our democracy and urge Congress to take immediate action to ensure that the hard-fought gains of the past are not lost to the winds of partisanship.

Dr. Russ Wigginton President
National Civil Rights Museum


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