Video: Topic Of Discussion: Voting Rights…Leaders Explore History

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – It has been called an honor, a privilege, our civic duty.

Today, the right to vote is at the center of a discussion sponsored by the Ulysses Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State.

A Who’s Who panel of state supreme court justices tackled the topic.

The symposium marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which legally guaranteed voting rights to all American citizens, regardless of their race.

Along with that, it also marks the anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment that first allowed African Americans the right to vote.

But how have these laws influenced history and what do they mean to students today?

“I feel like it’s really important for me to understand why it’s a big deal for African American males to vote and why I should take advantage of it because every vote matters,” said MSU student,  Blake Lewis.

Lewis is one of many students who attended the Voting Rights Act discussion.

A panel featuring a current supreme court chief justice judge and former judges were on hand to discuss how the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act has shaped our country today.

Former Mississippi Governor William Winter moderated the panel.

He says the emphasis for the talk is how far we’ve come since these laws were first established.

“For 100 years after the passage of the 15th Amendment, we still denied people the right to vote in Mississippi based on what they looked like, based on their race and that was an indefensible system that we had. Now, however, we thanks to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we have a system where the opportunity to vote now, I think is fairly well established,” said Winter.

Governor Winter says although better voting laws are in place now, it’s a low voter turnout that concerns him.

And that’s why the panel hoped to grab the attention of students.

“Particularly to the students here at Mississippi State, the responsibility they have to participate in the electoral process and to understand that being a citizen of this country carries with it a high responsibility to make wise political decisions,” added Winter.

And for the students soaking in the knowledge, they say these laws have shaped their generation in more ways than one.

“A lot of things we have today are done through voting and when you think about the people who didn’t have a chance to vote, it’s like well, they didn’t have a say so in any of the changes and everything that has gone on and now, it’s like everyone has the chance,” said MSU student, Denisha Suggs.
The is the first year for the symposium to be held and organizers say they are looking forward to planning more in the future.

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