There are several emails being widely circulated on the net that African Americans will lose their right to vote when the 1965 Voting Rights Act expires in 2007. This is a rumor and is NOT true. The email is marked urgent and encourages us to pass it on to others and to contact our congresspersons at once! The latest version of this email is in the form of a letter authored by Dr. Camille Cosby, wife of Bill Cosby. SHE DID NOT WRITE IT.
This rumor is widely believed but it is all a misunderstanding that has grown to urban legend status. My mother believed it and I had a hard time convincing her otherwise. “How do you know?” Because I know, just trust me. (Now how could she argue with that?) But she said,“yeah right, we'll see.”
Seriously, I explained to her that the 1965 Voting Rights Act does not expire, only its Special Preclearance Provisions are subject to review and renewal in 2007. And, that it is not the Voting Rights Act that gives us the right to vote anyway.
The basic right of all American citizens to vote, regardless of race, is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and does not expire. Moreover, African Americans specifically were granted voting rights by the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed immediately after the Civil War. The basic prohibition against discrimination in voting contained in the Fifteenth Amendment and in the 1965 Voting Rights Act is permanent.
The 1965 Act was necessary because even with all these wonderful official words saying Black Americans are guaranteed this basic right, somehow many states in our great nation managed to come up with creative obstacles. Polling Taxes were levied on poor Blacks and the amount was subject to change on a whim. Of course there were all kinds of weird registration requirements, ridiculous placements of polling places and outright intimidation.
The Special Provisions of the 1965 act were put in place to address these problems and was set to come up for review every few years. I guess it was assumed that these sorts of discriminatory acts on citizens exercising their right to vote would not be permanent. HA! The Special Provision was renewed in 1970, 1975 and again in 1982. Now it is due for renewal in 2007. The Special Preclearance Provision also provides that certain states must have the approval of the U.S Attorney General before making any changes to their voting rights laws. I certainly hope Florida is one of those states. Remember the 2000 presidential election?
So my fellow Americans, it is not true. Our right to vote is not and has not ever been in danger. So get out there, get registered and do it!