NY Governor fights voter suppression with John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
Congressman John Lewis is seen in his Atlanta office with two of his favorite items from his collection of memorabilia from his younger days as a civil rights activist in the 1960s. He is holding a Life Magazine cover picturing the famous Selma march in 1965. (He is in this photo at front of the line of marchers.) He is also holding a photo of the 'Big Six' civil rights leaders of the time to plan for the famous March on Washington. The men in the photo are L to R: John Lewis, Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, Martin Luther King, James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins. In background photos (picture at left) of Dr. Martin Luther King with Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy and Lewis with Robert Kennedy (picture at right)." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act into law. The legislation will prevent local officials from enacting rules that could suppress people’s voting rights due to race.

NBC New York reports the bill, named after the late civil rights activist, makes New York one of the first states to reestablish a version of a process known as “preclearance” that was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.

The right to vote is a human right.

Despite African Americans having to historically overcome voter intimidation, suppression, and manipulation, our votes continue to decide whom will lead our nation’s communities, cities, and states.

Under the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, states and counties with a history of suppressing Black voters were required to seek approval from the Department of Justice before changing voting rules. In 2013, the high court ended the practice saying federal oversight was no longer needed.

Yet, that quickly proved to be untrue as multiple Republican-led states enacted new rules around voting for their political benefit.

Changes to NY’s voting policies to stem tide of voter suppression

According to Black Enterprise, the bill signed by Hochul means local governments and school districts must gain approval from state officials to pass certain voting policies.

“We’re going to change our election laws so we no longer hurt minority communities,” Hochul said at a bill signing ceremony at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Voter suppression affects Black folks across America

“I’m so proud to be here to sign this landmark legislation. No state in the nation has stood up with the courage and conviction and the power we have by protecting these important rights.”

Per Black Enterprise, the law will also expand language assistance for voters who do not speak English as their first language and will also provide legal tools to fight discriminatory voting provisions.

State Democrats applauded the effort but added more laws like it are needed across the country.

When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

— From the John R. Lewis posthumous New York Times opinion piece “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation,” published on July 30, 2020.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...