Alabama county argues part of Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional

Frank Ellis Jr., is the attorney for Shelby County, Ala. By Khara Persad/News21

The attorney for Shelby County, Ala., has filed a lawsuit that contests the constitutionality of Voting Rights Act sections that require federal oversight of any changes in election laws in all or portions of 17 states.

Attorney Frank Ellis Jr., argues in the lawsuit, which could reach the Supreme Court, that the requirements of sections 4(b) and 5 are a burden based upon voting discrimination practices that have disappeared since Congress passed the law in 1965.

“To require governments to spend tens of millions of dollars — local governments that need that money for other purposes, for education, for police protection, for facilities and infrastructure — it’s archaic and out of date,” Ellis said.

By Jack Fitzpatrick and Khara Persad, News21

Alabama NAACP leader talks about struggle to motivate voters

Steve Branch is the Alabama state chair for voter registration. Photo by Khara Persad/News21

Steve Branch, the NAACP voter registration chairman for Alabama, is committed to getting voters out of their homes and into polling places, he said, but the challenge for the civil rights organization is convincing people that their votes can make a difference.

 

“We’re trying to get our people to vote not only in general elections, but in primaries and in anything else that comes up,” Branch said. “We’re trying to get into an election habit.”
It’s an uphill battle, Branch said, because many voters are apathetic and don’t believe that voting matters.

 

“I have to say to people, ‘Listen, you have to look at the vote as far as what’s happening in your community. You can change the county commissioner. You can change the circuit court judge. You may be able to change your county sheriff – people who are oppressing you. You can change this to work in your favor,’” Branch said.

By Jack Fitzpatrick and Khara Persad, News21

Deli owners in Alabama register voters

The owners of a deli in Birmingham, Ala., organized a daylong voter registration drive in the Pratt City neighborhood June 2. Five generations of the Agee family, owners of the Thomas Deli, flagged down drivers and pedestrians, encouraging them to sign up. They provided forms to register voters, helped them fill in their information and promised to deliver the completed forms to the county, which provided the family with 100 registration forms.

Claudia Agee and her family registered voters Saturday in Birmingham, Ala. Photo by Khara Persad/News21

Claudia Agee, 72, said she wants more for her hometown and said the local youth have to exercise their right to vote in order to make that happen.

“We’re trying to get the young people to vote to get them out in larger numbers, and trying to let them know the importance of voting,” she said. “They complain about a lot of things but they don’t know that if they don’t vote, staying at home is not going to help. Go vote and help voice your opinion. When you vote, then you have a voice.”

Debbie Agee helps Miara Hunt, a student at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, fill out registration forms. Photo by Khara Persad/News21

Miara Hunt, 19, is a student at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham who stopped Saturday to register with the help of Debbie Agee, 54.

“I really want to vote. I’ve been waiting on this age limit so I can be able to vote for a long time. And now I’m able to do it, and I’m glad. And I want a good president,” Hunt said.

– By Jack Fitzpatrick and Khara Persad, News21