LC’s Commentary

Listen To The Voice of Reason

1965 Voters Rights Act extended for 25yrs.

Many in the Black community waited with apprehension as the 1965 Voters Rights Act was recently debated in Washington DC.  Some politicians argued that an extension was unnecessary because of the progress that has been made in the voting procedures in many jurisdictions.  After much debate, the act was extended for 25yrs. 
The question begs to be asked” what does the extension mean to the average Black voter?”   Will the very people who the Act was designed to help, take full advantage of it? Recent voting data paints a dismal voting record in the Black community.  As a matter of fact, a higher Black voter turnout in recently highly charged and critical national elections may have caused a different outcome.  I look at this Voters Rights Act as another example of a resource that we as a people have not taken full advantage of. The same can be said about educational resources not being fully utilized.  Why have these avenues open, if we are not willing to use them?  One may say, the Voters Rights Act is important, just in case one wants to vote, not if he or she will vote.

There have certainly been many instances of voter irregularities in recent past elections-especially, Presidential elections. Armed with this knowledge, Blacks should vote in numbers so that any gerrymandering will be offset by the sheer number of voters. It takes very little effort to register to vote and little additional time to actually vote.  It is a civic duty to vote, and a way to express opposition or agreement with current or hopeful political candidates.   History paints a depressing and almost unbelievable picture of the tactics that have been utilized to deny Blacks, and to a lesser degree, poor White, the right to vote. In 1898, the State of Louisiana crafted voter qualifications which almost totally disenfranchised the Black voter. Caught up in this same web were Poor Whites.   To be qualified to vote, one had to have: Two years residency in the State, one in the Parrish and six months in the Precinct. 
Other requirements were: The ability to read either English or his native tongue or possess property assessed at three hundred dollars or more. Added to this requirement was a poll tax of one dollar per year and a voter had to present poll tax receipts for the past two years. Realizing that many white were eliminated from the voters roles, the law was amended to read that one was qualified to vote if his father or grandfather had been a registered voter in 1867. Black-voter registration which was 130,000 in 1897 was reduced to 5,320 by 1890 and to 1,342 by 1904.  In the state of Mississippi, the number of registered Black voters dropped just as dramatically. It went from a high of 86,973 in 1868 to 8,922 in 1892.

The vote is a very powerful instrument. Why do you think people go through so much trouble to control it?  Why do you think people of many colors have risked their lives for the privilege to vote? It would be a shame if we as a people do not once again embrace the fervor and determination that our forefathers had for the privilege to vote.
 Copyright 2006
This commentary written by L.C. Thornton, for The Peoples Voice Black Weekly News
For reprint permission contact:
L.C. Thornton at


July 28, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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