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Jesse Jackson: Keep the vote alive,
extend the Voting Rights Act of sixty-five

by Philip E. Jenks

July 11, 2005, New York – The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., came to New York Monday to announce a two year campaign to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

President Bush has shown no interest in extending key provisions of the act, which was extended in 1982 by President Reagan, Jackson told a press conference in The Interchurch Center hosted by the National Council of Churches USA. 

Jackson announced a “Keep the Vote Alive Pro-Democracy March and Rally” in Atlanta on August 6 to kick off a two-year campaign to extend Sections II and V of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed by President Johnson on August 6, 1965. 

Jackson quoted his son, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), who attended a meeting of the Black Congressional Caucus in the White House and asked President Bush if he would support extension of the Voting Rights Act. 

“I’m against statehood for Washington, D.C.,” the younger Jackson quoted the president. When it was clarified what the Voting Rights Act is, Bush allegedly replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but when it comes to my desk I’ll deal with it.” 

“But the President does know,” Jackson Senior told the press conference. “He was governor of Texas, which is a state under voting rights supervision.” 

The Voting Rights Act protects ethnic and language minorities from barriers to keep them from voting. “Voting is not a national right, it’s a state system,” Jackson said. “We have 50 separate but unequal voting systems.” 

Even the new U.S.-written Constitution of Iraq provides better voting rights,” Jackson said. “In Iraq, everyone, man and woman, has the absolute right to vote.” 

Jackson was joined on the podium by an array of New York area civil rights leaders and Democratic politicians, including former presidential candidate, the Rev. Al Sharpton, former gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall, former Mayoral candidate Mark Green and current Mayoral candidate Fernando “Freddy” Ferrer. New York City Congressman Gregory Meeks addressed the conference, and the Rev. James Forbes, pastor of The Riverside Church, welcomed journalists to the Morningside Heights section of the city. 

Ferrer and Meeks both declared they could not have run for office in New York City without the Voting Rights Act. “It’s not just a Southern issue,” Sharpton pointed out. “It’s a New York issue, too.” 

The Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, who is in Cuba this week, left word that the Council supports the August 6 rally and the campaign to extend the Voting Rights Act. 

“Voting rights is not a liberal issue or a conservative issue,” Edgar said. “It’s an American issue. What could be more fundamental to our God-given rights than the unimpeded right to vote?”

(NCC Photos. The press conference was held in the Sockman Lounge. Dr. Ralph W. Sockman, 1889-1970, an American ecumenical leader and preacher, is pictured above with Rev. Jackson.)

For more information, see Rainbow/PUSH.

Contact: NCC News, Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252,

Press Conference Snap Shots. (NCC Pictures)


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