Fight for equality still persistent

Last week, the Senate voted to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act for another 25 years.

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., were among the 98 senators who voted to renew this landmark legislation. Both should be commended for the role they played in protecting a vital American right – the right to vote.

These votes are especially refreshing considering the stand taken recently by two of their counterparts in the House of Representatives. Representatives Jo Bonner, R-Mobile and Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, voted against renewing the Voting Rights Act when it came before the House July 13.

Both objected to portions of the law requiring ballots in some states be printed in several languages. Bonner and Everett also criticized Section 5 of the act, which requires that some southern states clear any changes to voting procedures through the Justice Department.

The cry among conservatives is that Section 5 forever punishes southern states for the racist actions of past generations. The thinking goes that since Jim Crow laws are no longer a part of the south’s legal code, southern states no longer need federal oversight to make sure they are playing by the rules where voting practices are concerned.

The problem with this line of thinking is it assumes discrimination has been abolished, and we can never go back to the days when underhanded tactics were used to disenfranchise many Americans.

The rhetoric of some representatives shows how easily intolerance can be redirected in our society. The same representatives who say states can be trusted to do the right thing with voting rights want to make it harder for some voters to read their ballots.

Of course, non-English speakers should be encouraged to learn the language of our nation, but we should not punish those who do not have a firm grasp of English by forcing them to vote on a ballot written in a language they do not completely understand.

As long as there is prejudice in the world, legislation will be needed to make sure it is not translated into law. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provides protection to those who were once prevented from exercising the most basic of American rights.

Many strides in civil rights have been made because of this act, but it should not be tossed aside because of these improvements. Thank goodness we have elected officials who realize this legislation is still needed, because the fight for equality is far from over.