The Buzz

Voting Rights Act must be protected, SC activists say

Jesse Jackson (center)
Jesse Jackson (center)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined a state lawmaker and S.C. activists on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act to advocate an ongoing effort to protect access to the ballot.

Jackson said he hoped Republican presidential hopefuls would debate how to protect the Voting Right Acts in their first debate Thursday night.

“(T)hat is critical to the integrity of our democracy,” said the Greenville native, who has been returning the Palmetto State to push for better access to health care for the poor.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said a new state law, which she sponsored last year, requires any changes to the state’s voting laws be posted on the S.C. State Election Commission’s website five days after their adoption or 35 days before their implementation, whichever is earlier.

That state reporting requirement takes the place of a federal rule the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2013, the Orangeburg Democrat said.

Cobb-Hunter also said the state’s most recent redrawing of voting district lines, timed every 10 years to new Census figures, has made it more difficult to protect the right to vote.

“Here in South Carolina we have a long way to go,” Cobb-Hunter said, turning her criticism toward other African-American lawmakers who, she said, were silent on the redistricting plan.

South Carolina and other states with histories of discriminatory voting practices once needed federal approval to change their voting laws. But, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck that part of the federal Voting Rights Act in a 5-4 decision.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, said Wednesday that lawmakers must update the Voting Rights Act, including restoring federal oversight of state voting laws.

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