Message to Jesse Jackson: Stop Lying About the Voting Rights Act
Jesse Jackson Wrong to Claim U.S. Supreme Court Made Voting Rights Act "Null and Void"
"Resorting to Hyperbole… Unnecessarily Divides People," Says Project 21's Cherylyn Harley LeBon
Washington, D.C. - Jesse Jackson's false claim that a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision made the 1965 Voting Rights Act "null and void" is being refuted by legal and civil rights experts with the Project 21 black leadership network.
Project 21 members are demanding Jackson tell the truth about the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric H. Holder, Jr.
"Jesse Jackson is certainly entitled to criticize how the U.S. Supreme Court reformed the Voting Rights Act in 2013, but he also has a duty to be truthful about what the justices did instead of resorting to hyperbole that unnecessarily divides people," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a talk show host with the USA Radio Network and former senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Voting Rights Act was not made 'essentially null and void' in 2013. The law still exists and it still protects us. For Jackson to throw such allegations out there like that is reckless and wrong."
In comments at the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City, Alabama February 7, Jesse Jackson grossly mischaracterized the outcome of the 2013 Shelby County case when he said: "What was earned in blood in Selma was taken away by the pen in Shelby, so the Voting Rights Act of '65 was essentially null and void. So in effect what we won on the battlefield in 1965 was taken away June 25th, 2013."
In Shelby County the Court found that Section 4(b) of the 19-section Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional because it is based on a formula last updated in 1975. Congress is free to update the formula, which places certain states and localities under special scrutiny because of discrimination that took place over 40 years ago.
Project 21 submitted a legal brief in the case, arguing that the Voting Rights Act's preclearance standards are "not consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution," and that there is a danger that parts of the Act are "now a central tool for institutionalized racial discrimination at the command of the [Obama Justice Department] itself."
"Jesse Jackson has it absolutely backwards. The purpose of the Voting Rights Act was not to give a preference to any group because of their race, but instead end the practice of preferring one race over another. Over time, Eric Holder and people such as Jesse Jackson transformed that consensus into becoming the very thing that America came together to resolve," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, who taught constitutional law at George Mason University and served on the leadership staff at the U.S. House of Representatives. "It is no better to prefer blacks in redistricting than it is to prefer whites. I'm proud of the role that Project 21 played in creating the race-neutral vision that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated."
"Once again, it appears Jesse Jackson is playing on America's emotions in order to continue his agenda of pimping black Americans out to advance his perceived role as a leader and celebrity," added Project 21's Shelby Emmett, a lawyer and former congressional staff member. "The changes to the Voting Rights Act that Jackson complains about do nothing of the sort to limit voting rights for black Americans — or any American. The reforms instituted by the U.S. Supreme Court removed the assumed racist assumptions of specific states and districts. Any actual violations can still be prosecuted. Suits can still be filed, and damages can still be awarded. The level of scrutiny is still high. My voting rights are as secure today as they were before 2013. In fact, I feel they are more secure with these changes because, instead of profiling a few select states, the changes require the same standards nationwide."
Jesse Jackson also alleged blacks in Alabama and elsewhere are maliciously "packed and stacked" in majority-minority legislative districts, falsely claiming this practice is only possible because the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
In fact, the Voting Rights Act triggers special federal scrutiny when redistricting may result in fewer minorities being elected to office, so the truth is the opposite of Jackson's claim: the Voting Rights Act remains in force and itself promotes the existence of majority-minority districts.
The U.S. Supreme Court is in the process of deciding a case involving Alabama's recent legislative redistricting in which members of the state's black and Democrat lawmaker caucuses sued over the accusation that the redistricting unfairly concentrates black voters.
Leaders of the Alabama legislature, the defendants in the case, cite pre-Shelby County Section 5 enforcement as the impetus for the disputed mapping decisions. Project 21 also submitted a brief in the combined cases of Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, arguing: "In these cases, Alabama was prohibited by [the Voting Rights Act] from acting in a race-neutral manner. Redistricting was done under the preclearance regime in place before Shelby County... [S]tates will continue to be placed in the impossible position of being required to comply with racial balancing statutes and the Equal Protection Clause simultaneously [without stricter scrutiny regarding race]."
"Comments from the Reverend Jesse Jackson illuminate the irrelevancy of today's racial leaders," said Project 21's Joe R. Hicks, a former executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Rather than a backwards step, the Supreme Court's 2013 Shelby County ruling actually represents a victory for civil rights. The majority ruling by the justices only struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act and its preclearance formula, leaving the remainder alive and intact to protect the voting rights of all Americans. Reverend Jackson should know that Section 5 enforced racial gerrymandering which created voting districts drawn on racial or ethnic lines."
Hicks added: "While it is clear that facts to leftists and liberals are like Kryptonite to Superman, only a few states in the union had a total voter turnout rate – for whites or minorities – under 50 percent since 2012. In fact, the turnout in six of the states covered by Section 5 was well above the national average. Mississippi, a state the voting formula for Section 5 was intended for, had the highest total turnout rate in the nation. If so-called leaders such as the Reverend Jackson were truly interested in actual racial progress he would be celebrating along with me that the Court made Section 5 a relic instead of perpetuating meaningless racial mythology."
Project 21 participated in the cases of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and Shelby County v. Holder over the past two terms of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, et al. v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. during the Court's current term. Over the years, Project 21 has been involved in over a dozen legal briefs and its members have discussed these cases in hundreds of media interviews and citations.
Project 21 members were interviewed or cited by the media over 2,000 times in 2014, and over 200 times so far in 2015, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, the Orlando Sentinel, Westwood One, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, SiriusXM satellite radio as well as 50,000-watt talk radio stations such as WHO-Des Moines, KOA-Denver, WGN-Chicago, WBZ-Boston and KDKA-Pittsburgh. Topics discussed by Project 21 members included civil rights, entitlement programs, the economy, voter ID, race preferences, education, illegal immigration and corporate social responsibility. Project 21 members also provided substantial commentary regarding the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner judicial proceedings. Project 21 has also defended voter ID laws at the United Nations. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life and are not salaried political professionals.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).
Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.