The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) called on President Joe Biden to use an executive order to restore Section 4 and Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Officials of the organization, which was co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the order would restrict states like Georgia from passing legislation that prevents some citizens from participating in the voting process without pre-clearance of the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We have to do it all over again,” said Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC. “We are asking President Joe Biden to do an executive order, not on a new Voting Rights Act, but on the existing 1965 Voting Rights Act. Some members of Congress are working on a new voting rights bill. We simply need to bring back the 1965 Voting Rights Act with expansion.”
Last week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law legislation that provides greater voting oversight, such as requiring ID for absentee voting, earlier deadlines for absentee ballots and limited drop boxes for absentee ballots where law enforcement authorities are seated next to the drop boxes.
According to Steele, this law retreated America 56 years, to the period before the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.
Steele said the SCLC has been advocating, since June of 2103, for sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act to be restored.
That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Section 4, which designated which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.
Later that year, the court ruled against Section 5, which required states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get certification in advance, or “pre-clearance,” to ensure election changes are not discriminatory.
“The SCLC was being proactive. We have been stating publicly this is going to happen. While we were out here emotionally celebrating that we had a Black president, the Supreme Court was gutting sections four and five. Now it is raining as we predicted. It is raining down racism, insensitivity, and Jim Crowism, and we are going back 56 years, Steele said.
According to Steele, with the use of an executive order, a power tool at the president’s disposal, Biden can restore the preclearance for the Department of Justice, which would prevent states like Georgia from denying access to the right to vote.
“The Emancipation Proclamation was the result of an executive order,” Dr. Steele said. “We would not be free today if we waited on Congress to change the law. Black people would still be slaves.”
With this call to action, Steele said the SCLC supports organizations that are calling for a boycott of Georgia until the legislation is repealed.
“There should be no Major League Baseball All Star game, No Majors at the golf course in Augusta, no major event of any kind until our state provides access for all people to participate in the voting process,” Steele said. “It is time we move forward not backward in America. This is how we become a stronger nation.”