Freshman Mississippi State Rep. Zakiya Summers has co-published an op-ed with two other black female lawmakers from Georgia and South Carolina in which they write “the legislatures of Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and many of our neighbors are ground zero for modern-day voter suppression.”
Summers joined Nikema Williams, a Georgia State Senator, and Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina State Representative, in writing the opinion piece which was shared in Morning Consult. All three are Democrats. Summers is the former director of communications and advocacy for the ACLU of Mississippi.
Honored to co-publish this op-Ed with colleagues @NikemaWilliams @GCobbHunter about the need to protect voting rights and expand access. Thanks @stateinnovation for pulling it together! #VOTE https://t.co/sPXTxA7ISP
— Zakiya Summers (@RepZSummers) August 10, 2020
Summers and her co-writers opine that as state lawmakers and black women they have been on the front lines of the fight for civil and economic freedom in the South.
“Today, we are raising the alarm and shedding light on the negligence, obstruction and inhumanity we have faced in our attempts to defend and build on the promise of the Voting Rights Act,” the trio wrote.
At issue for the lawmakers is the end of preclearance through the Voting Rights Act following the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Prior to that ruling, Southern states seeking to change voting laws had to seek approval from the federal government.
“This system, known as ‘preclearance,’ prevented countless discriminatory voting practices from taking effect,” the three write, adding, “Shelby ended preclearance, and conservatives in our legislatures did not hesitate to act.”
The Democrat lawmakers say South Carolina and Mississippi “quickly implemented voter identification laws previously blocked by the federal government because of their discriminatory impact on Black voters,” saying Georgia and Mississippi closed “scores of polling places in communities of color without proper oversight.”
Summers and the others go on to take issue with “majority white, conservative legislatures” who, they say, are forcing black voters to choose between their health and their vote during the pandemic.
“It’s 2020 and yet in Mississippi, you still cannot register to vote online or vote early,” they write. “Mississippi voters shouldn’t be prohibited from voting early or registering online because of antiquated laws. Voters across the South, especially in Black communities devastated by COVID-19, should not be forced to choose between their health and their vote as the rest of the country moves forward. And yet, conservative leaders continue to obstruct change and reverse progress.”
The Democrat legislators end their op-ed with a plea to Congress to pass a “stronger Voting Rights Act to overturn the damage done by Shelby,” a move national Democrats have more strongly advocated for in recent days following the death of Congressman John Lewis, using him as a symbol for their lobbying to more the narrative forward.