John Lewis: A Poll Tax by Another Name

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In a New York Times op-ed published over the weekend, Congressman John Lewis urges us to remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy by continuing to fight for voting rights:

As we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lewis continues by reflecting on his own history as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement:

Growing up as the son of an Alabama sharecropper, I experienced JimCrow firsthand. It was enforced by the slander of “separate but equal,” willful blindness to acts of racially motivated violence and the threat of economic retaliation. The pernicious effect of those strategies was to institutionalize second-class citizenship and restrict political participation to the majority alone...

New voting restrictions negatively affect young people and minorities more than most. In particular, photo identification laws, the most common of this new legislation, may exclude as many as 25 percent of African-Americans from accessing the ballot box.

Lewis concludes by describing the overall effect these election-law changes will have:

These restrictions purportedly apply to all citizens equally. In reality, we know that they will disproportionately burden African Americans and other racial minorities, yet again. They are poll taxes by another name.

Read the full article on The New York Times website.