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Atlanta: thousands march to
extend Voting Rights Act
Protest new Georgia law requiring photo ID to vote
More than 13,000 marched August 6 in Atlanta in action to back extension of key provisions of 1965 Voting Rights Act and oppose new attacks like voter ID law.
BY BILL ARTH
ATLANTAThousands of marchers, overwhelmingly working people, filled the streets of downtown Atlanta August 6 in a demonstration demanding the renewal of key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Participation was mostly Black, with large contingents from trade unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE-HERE, United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A sea of marchers wore NAACP T-shirts.
Many demonstrators were high school and college students. Also present were Black farmers who have been fighting to keep their land and protesting federal government discrimination. Among the
demonstrators were those demanding the prosecution of lynchers
who killed four Black youths in Monroe, Georgia, in 1946.
Estimates of the size of the action ranged from 13,000 to 20,000.
A prominent focus of the demonstration was opposition to a new Georgia law that represents one of the most serious restrictions on the right to vote. On April 21 Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill requiring people to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote: either a Georgia drivers license, a state ID card, a military card, or a U.S. passport. The previous law permitted 17 different forms of ID, such as a utility bill or employee ID.
The new legislation will bear down hardest on working people who are immigrants, members of oppressed nationalities, or elderly, who are the most likely not to have the required ID. Voters who are Black are much less likely than whites to own a car and have a drivers license, or to hold a passport. In rural counties some residents dont have birth certificates, which would enable them to easily obtain the ID.
Proponents of the law argue that it is needed to prevent voter fraud. Georgia secretary of state Cathy Cox has stated, however, that she cannot recall a single case during her tenure when anyone impersonated a voter.
Speakers at the rally included Democratic Party politicians such as Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin and U.S. representatives John Lewis and Maxine Waters.
The Voting Rights Act, passed 40 years ago in the wake of the mass civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, ended the use of literacy requirements for voting in several southern states.
One of the provisions up for renewal requires that these states get federal approval before enacting any changes in their election laws. Another provision requires election officials to assist immigrant voters who dont speak English by providing them with voting material in their own language.
Elvee Green, a Detroit auto worker and member of the United Auto Workers union, said her local organized a bus to get her and co-workers to Atlanta. I had to be here. They are attacking our unions, theyre sending us to crazy wars, we have to at least keep our right to vote, she said.
Among those marching were James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Atlanta, and supporters of his campaign, who were well received. Our platform drew a lot of interest because of our support to workers struggles to organize unions and to use and extend union power to defend ourselves from the bosses assault, Harris told the Militant.
Socialist campaigners circulated a statement by Harris that said, The SWP stands with those who are defending the gains that were made by the massive movement for Black rights of the 1950s and 60s in the United States. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed measures that were used to prevent Blacks from voting, must be extended. It is still necessary today because racist practices are still carried out by institutions throughout U.S. society.
The socialist candidate joined in protesting the Voter ID law as an attack on the political rights of working people. This measure, he explained, will also be used as another anti-working-class probe toward establishing a national ID card.
1.4 million with past felony sentences are barred from voting
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