Tuesday marks the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Monday night members of Arkansas Community Organizations are holding a rally and candlelight vigil to voice their support for strengthening the act, which was intended to eliminate racial discrimination from the election process.
In 2016 the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act that required states and counties with a history of racial discrimination to receive federal clearance before making changes to voting laws. Arkansas was one of several states to enact voter ID laws after the Supreme Court ruling. Neil Sealy, one of the rally's organizers, says Arkansas's voter ID requirements, which became law under Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2018, unfairly target minority voters.
"We need to be going in the direction where we encourage people to vote, [where] voting is easier. There's been a whole myth about voter fraud, but not much evidence that it exists," Sealy said.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the number of African-Americans of voting age who lack the type of photo IDs required by states with voter ID laws is nearly three times that of white voters.
Sealy says specific bills should require federal approval. "Bills that are known to have potentially discriminatory effects, such as voter ID laws, the creation of at-large districts, inadequate multilingual voting materials."
Sealy also said laws which would cut the amount of time polling places or early voting sites are open should require federal approval.
The rally will be held outside the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock at 7 p.m. Similar rallies are planned in approximately a dozen other states.