Alabama: how the VRA helped fair elections in Bayou LaBatre
DeWayne Wickham writes in USA Today: When Asian-American residents of Bayou La Batre, a small Alabama town that was made famous by Forrest Gump, went to the polls in August 2004, they might have had one of the film's most memorable lines on their mind. "Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get, " Gump, the title character in the Oscar-winning movie, said prophetically in the opening scene.
After being urged by several candidates to vote in the municipal election, many of the Southeast Asian-Americans in the town of about 3,000 had their ballots challenged. Nearly 50 of them were forced to fill out paper ballots and have another registered voter vouch for them.
Despite these hurdles, Phuong Tan Huynh — the first Asian-American to run for City Council there — defeated Jackie Ladnier in the October runoff, but only after the Justice Department intervened.
Tuesday, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-partisan group, released a 187-page report that argues the need for reauthorizing the sections of the Voting Rights Act that are set to expire next year. One of them empowered the Justice Department to send observers to monitor Bayou La Batre's runoff election.
Though the law "has accomplished much during its first 40 years, more remains to be done in order to protect the rights of racial and ethnic minorities to fully and equally participate in the electoral process," the report concludes. -- USATODAY.com - Why renew Voting Rights Act? Ala. town provides answer