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Events highlight the Voting Rights Act of 1965

August 14, 2015 | Events

Fifty years have passed since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a key piece of legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting – was signed into law. Yet, voting rights remains a hot topic today, as the hit film Selma, which describes protests in Selma, Alabama leading up to the passage of the act, makes its mark throughout the Hollywood awards season – and as politicians in Ohio work on legislative redistricting reform. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, and debates still rage on the subject.

On March 4, two experts will address the history, legacy, and future of the Voting Rights Act in events presented by The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, and the Kirwan Institute.

The Voting Rights Act at 50 with Pam Karlan, deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, will take place in Saxbe Auditorium from noon-1:30 p.m. Karlan, one of the nation’s leading experts on voting and the political process, served as co-director of Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and is co-author of leading casebooks on constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and the law of democracy. Karlan has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and an assistant counsel and former cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The Voting Rights Act at 50 with Thomas Perez will take place a couple of hours later, from 4-7 p.m. in the Union Performance Hall. Perez was nominated by President Obama and sworn in as the nation’s 26th secretary of labor in 2013.  Before that, he served as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Department of Justice, where his responsibilities included the enforcement of voting rights laws. Secretary Perez formerly served as the secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“The Voting Rights Act made the fundamental right to vote a reality for many of our nation’s citizens, who had been systematically prevented from voting for most of the Twentieth Century,” said event organizer Daniel P. Tokaji, the Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Professor of Constitutional Law and Senior Fellow, Election Law @ Moritz.  “These events will celebrate the changes that the Voting Rights Act initiated, while also recognizing the challenges that remain with us in protecting the equal voting rights of all citizens.”   

The two events on March 4 have been scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, which took place on March 7, 1965.  On that date, peaceful voting rights protesters were brutally attacked by Alabama law enforcement officers while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way from Selma to Montgomery.  The public outcry that followed led to enactment of the Voting Rights Act.

Perez and Karlan will discuss the Voting Rights Act’s history, its continuing importance, and the work that remains to be done to ensure every citizen’s fundamental right to vote.

Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. These are the final events in the college’s three-part series recognizing the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Lunch will be provided at the noon event for those who register.