SCLC to Pres. Biden: Use exec order to restore gutted 1965 Voting Rights Act
In this 2015 photo, SCLC President Charles Steele Jr., center, NAACP attorney Gerald Griggs (l) and Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose (r) attend a press conference. Photo by Lisa Hagen WABE.

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.

The Atlanta Voice is reporting that SCLC officials believe a Biden-signed executive order would restrict states like Georgia, Texas and others from passing legislation that prevents some citizens from participating in the voting process without pre-clearance of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Dr. Charles Steele Jr. Photo courtesy SCLC.

“We have to do it all over again,” said Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC, the iconic civil rights organization co-founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “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.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently 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.

Steele asserts this law put America back 56 years, to the period before the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

Kemp’s actions represent the tip of the iceberg, as 253 similar pieces of “voter suppression” legislation are current being considered in 47 states.

Though the current resurrgence in such legislation deemed as excessively restrictive to the voting rights of Blacka, Latinos and other demographics that tend to heavily vote Democratic, Steele says the SCLC has been advocating for sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act to be restored since 2013, the year the U.S. Supreme Court removed them from the historic 1965 law.

More specifically, in 2013 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.

In a later 2013 High Court ruling against Section 5, the requirements for states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get certification in advance, or “pre-clearance,” to ensure election changes are not discriminatory, was abolished. Republican-led states immediately implemented an avalanche of “voter suppression” laws that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of eligible voters nationally, the majority of whom were Black, Latino, lower income, seniors and college-aged voters.

“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.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (front, center) is flanked by fellow SCLC members and Civil Rights Movement icons Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (l), Rev. Ralph David Abernathy (r) and Andrew Young (far right).

According to the Atlanta Voice, Steele believes that 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 and Texas from denying access to the right to vote.

“The Emancipation Proclamation was the result of an executive order,” Dr. Steele reminded. “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.”

-The Atlanta Voice / BlackPressUSA