06/26/2006

SPLC Leader Advocates Voting Rights Act Renewal

In commentary published yesterday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Julian Bond said the Voting Rights Act of 1965 remains pertinent today, and urged Congress to renew key provisions.

Bond serves on the Southern Poverty Law Center's board of directors and has chaired the NAACP since 1998. A former Georgia state senator, he is a professor at American University and the University of Virginia.

Litigating voting rights cases was an important component of the Center's legal agenda in the years following its founding in 1971. One early landmark case was a lawsuit bringing equal opportunity to black voters in the Alabama legislature. Before Center lawyers brought the case, there were no black legislators. Now, nearly a quarter of the state's legislators are black, roughly reflecting the state's general population.

The SPLC's voting rights manual, Drawing the Line, explains the redistricting process and provides tools and techniques to help citizens become a force for equity in their community and state. Those drawing the district lines decide who is in each district, which elections they vote in, and what groups control the elections for years to come.

"If you care about fair elections -- if you want to make sure your voice is heard – get involved in the redistricting process," said Richard Cohen, SPLC president and former Center legal director.