Georgia Voices: More on the Voting Rights decision if people lead, leaders follow
by The Savannah Morning News
July 02, 2013 10:24 PM | 1180 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia is a different place today than it was almost 50 years ago when Congress approved the Voting Rights Act in 1965, a much-needed and transformative piece of legislation.

So is Savannah and Chatham County. And thank goodness.

Today, Georgians are generally more educated and more prosperous than they were a half-century ago. They have more opportunities. Housing is better. So is health care. So are highways and streets.

When it comes to representative government that mirrors citizens, there’s no comparison between past and present.

Things are vastly improved in this corner of the South.

That’s why last week’s 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared a portion of this landmark law unconstitutional is worthy of applause.

It must be pointed out that the nation’s highest court didn’t strike down the Voting Rights Act. ...

The same year the Voting Rights Act was passed, the three largest local representative bodies — Savannah City Council, Chatham County Commission and Savannah-Chatham County school board — were almost entirely white. The lone exception was Esther Garrison. She was appointed to the school board in 1964. She wasn’t elected to the board until later, when board members had to win elections to serve, rather than gain appointments.

But today, four of the nine members of the countywide school board are African-American. The same is true with the Chatham County Commission. That’s to be expected, as the county has a white majority.

Savannah City Council, however, has a black majority. Six of its nine members are African-American. It’s a percentage that reflects a majority-black population within city limits. ...

It won’t be easy, given the partisanship in Washington. But it must be done, so as to prevent the dilution of minority voting through such practices as creating too many at-large districts and blatant gerrymandering.

Concern that this law might whither because of gridlock is valid. The best remedy for that malady is voter participation — by people of all races. That’s because when the people lead, leaders generally follow.

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