COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Sanders Weatherby and his wife were one of the first African Americans to vote in Lowndes County. He remembers all too well, the struggles of the 1960′s.
“We got together and decided to get everything organized and needed to get people to vote. And at that time it was very hard for Blacks to vote because they were fearful that if we became eligible to vote, we wouldn’t vote on their behalf,” said Weatherby.
Weatherby remembers the road to equality being tough, and it’s still unfinished. Which is why he believes Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 should remain in place.
“They would threaten their employees saying if they went to vote, they would fire them. We need all the protection we can,” said Weatherby.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires 16 States to submit any proposed changes in voting procedures to the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s aimed at preventing voter discrimination. But Republican State Senator Terry Brown says times have changed.
“We can’t even go out and redraw our district lines without the U.S. Justice Department hanging over us. Give it back to the State.I think with the election of a Black President and we’ve got more minority elected officials in the State of Mississippi than any State in the Union,” said Brown.
It’s a view not shared by Civil Rights Attorney Wilbur Colom.
“Yes, we do have a black president, I’m very happy of it, but how many of the slave states actually voted for that Black President! After 150 years of denying African Americans the right to vote, why they complaining about 50 years of requiring it!? It seems absurd!”You could think of what happened in Florida, essentially creating long lines for minority voters to vote. Reducing the number of polling places just to impede the right to vote, creating voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise people because they won’t have the kind of ID you need. All these actions have shown. That it shouldn’t be changed,” said Colom.
Weatherby believes discrimination is still alive and hopes the Supreme Court remembers that when making their decision.
“You had your chance, and you didn’t take advantage of that chance and execute it right away; and now it backfired on you,” said Weatherby.
After hearing both sides, officials with the Supreme Court say they expect to make a ruling on the issue some time in the summer.