By: Cierra Duncan
The National Commission on Voting Rights recently held an open hearing in Houston to give the public an opportunity to speak on their voting experiences.
The commission is currently holding hearings, and will document speakers’ testimonies to help create election reform efforts that can help end voter discrimination.
The forum was held at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. A panel of state voting rights leaders heard testimony on such issues as young voter disenfranchisement, suppression and administration problems such as record maintenance.
“Voting rights is not the denial of the rights of anyone,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. “It is the opening of doors of opportunity for all.
“The Voting Rights Act safeguarded the rights of Americans to vote and stood as an obstacle to many of the more egregious attempts by certain states, including Texas, to gain the system by passing discriminatory changes in their election laws and administration policies.”
She added that the Voting Rights Act is needed more than ever to prevent disenfranchisement.
Cynthia Spooner, a Houston resident, said she has lived in Texas for the past 10 years. She has voted in six other states but said Texas is the only place where she encountered challenges. She tried three times before she successfully received a voter’s registration card and has been challenged at least eight times while trying to vote in Harris County.
“I have lived my life believing that I’m not here on a hall pass,” Spooner said. “I want every right that my parents fought for and that everyone deserves. It’s not just about my rights. It’s about the rights of the whole community.”
In addition to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, supporting organizations included the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, Houston Area Urban League and 100 Black Men of America, Houston Metropolitan Chapter.
The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 23 (April 10, 2014) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX. (http://defendernetwork.com/)