Rev. Sharpton Raises Voting Rights Awareness in Atlanta

The civil rights leader visited the city as a preview of his scheduled march and rally next month to protest the new laws.

Posted: 02/24/2012 01:26 PM EST
Al Sharpton Voter Rights in Atlanta

Reverend Al Sharpton took to the streets of Atlanta on Thursday to raise awareness about pending and existing legislation addressing voting rights.

The civil rights leader joined the son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther King, III, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Isaac Newton Farris Jr. at a press conference held at the headquarters for his organization, the National Action Network. He said there is a national effort to undermine the minority voting rights won during the civil rights movement.

"It could literally cost this election, but also others," Sharpton said. "This could permanently undermine the minority vote, which would defeat the whole purpose of the Voting Rights Act."

Some of the laws state, county and local units of government would like to see enacted include legislation that restricts early voting and Sunday voting, laws requiring a photo ID on election day — introducing the first financial document barrier to voting since the Jim Crow-era poll tax — and new bans on ex-felons, which some critics are calling racially motivated.

Sharpton’s visit was a preview of his scheduled march and rally next month to protest the new laws. The rally will start in Selma, Alabama, the scene of "Bloody Sunday," the seminal event that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and end in Montgomery. Congressman John Lewis, who was badly beaten at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, will also take part in the five-day event.

“Legislators should not be allowed to operate in the dark," Sharpton said. "It's more difficult to do evil, insidious things with the spotlight on them."

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(Photo:  Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

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