Congressman Cohen Presides at Memphis Field Hearing on Barriers to Voting
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today convened a hearing on “Discriminatory Barriers to Voting” at the Historic Moot Courtroom of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Congressman Cohen was pleased to welcome to Memphis House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas for this important hearing. This was the fourth hearing on voting rights held by the Subcommittee this year. Congressman Cohen will chair a fifth hearing on September 10 in Washington.
In his opening statement, Congressman Cohen said:
“Our particular focus today is on the evolution of racially discriminatory barriers to voting imposed by states and local governments and the central role that the federal government must play in tearing down these barriers.
“It is especially appropriate that we are holding this hearing in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis and the Deep South…were the central locus of activism for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.” See Congressman Cohen’s opening statement here.
Congressman Cohen noted that Congressman John Lewis was beaten in Selma, Alabama, marching for the right to vote; that James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered in Mississippi registering African Americans to vote; and that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the Civil Rights Movement and the push for voting rights, was assassinated in Memphis.
Congressman Cohen said the need for strong federal enforcement of voting rights remains as pressing as ever, noting present-day barriers such as “discriminatory photo ID laws, polling place closures and relocations, restrictions on ex-felon voting and purges of voter rolls, all of which are designed to make it harder for African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities to vote. Here in Tennessee, we have seen a new state law enacted that would impose draconian penalties on third-party voter registration groups for minor errors in registration forms, imposing a chilling effect on such groups’ efforts to register new voters.”
Witnesses at today’s hearing were:
- Kareem Crayton, Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice;
- Steven J. Mulroy, Law Professor, University of Memphis, and former Shelby County Commissioner;
- Tequila Johnson, Co-Founder and Vice President, The Equity Alliance;
- Jon Greenbaum, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law;
- Helen Butler, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda;
- Jim Tucker, Native American Rights Fund;
- James F. Blumstein, Law Professor, Vanderbilt Law School.